Iran's welfare services to the elderly significant amid sanctions, pandemic: UNFPA

November 3, 2020 - 16:3

TEHRAN – The Welfare Organization of Iran has attained a great achievement through providing significant services to the elderly despite sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic, Leila Joudane, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Iran has said.

Vahid Ghobadi-Dana, head of the Welfare Organization, and Joudane discussed bilateral cooperation in 2021 in a meeting held in Tehran on Monday.

With the onset of COVID-19, and in cooperation with the Secretariat for the National Council of the Older Persons, 200 oxygen concentrators are to be purchased for the elderly, she stated.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare, we are producing health items by women heads of households, some of which will be provided to the Welfare Organization, she also noted.

Expressing satisfaction with the cooperation on the issue of aging, she added that “What has been done for the elderly is an important achievement, because the Welfare Organization has been able to provide significant services to the old citizens despite the sanctions and the pandemic.

Iran's successful experiences such as free vaccination and control of the pandemic in the face of sanctions in centers covered by the Welfare Organization can be a good example for other countries, she highlighted.

Ghobadi-Dana, for his part, said that in the care centers for the elderly and the disabled, preventive and health protocols were announced since the beginning of the epidemic due to the high risk of the disease for the elderly and the disabled.

Currently, over 80,000 elderly and staff in care centers equivalent to 95 percent have been vaccinated against the flu, which, despite the difficult conditions, has been done for free, he noted.

According to official statistics, Iran will be the oldest country in the world by the next 30 years. This will bring up many individual and social consequences both in national and international arenas even bigger than the coronavirus crisis.

Over the past decade, demographic experts have raised the alarm about the aging population in the country, but the negligence of the officials has exacerbated the situation.

Now, in the last years of the century, the country is struggling with the challenge of a declining population and a rising aging population, and the continued lack of planning by officials to resolve the issue over the next 30 years will make Iran the oldest country on Earth.

Official statistics of the country and the forecast of demographic experts indicate that if the trend of decreasing fertility rate, increasing single-child families, and decreasing marriage rate continues for the next 30 years, old age will prevail in the country and one in three people will be over 60-years-old, which will be the beginning of a crisis.

Globally, there were 703 million persons aged 65 or over in 2019. The region of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia was home to the largest number of older persons (261 million), followed by Europe and Northern America (over 200 million).

Over the next three decades, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050. All regions will see an increase in the size of the older population between 2019 and 2050.

The largest increase (312 million) is projected to occur in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, growing from 261 million in 2019 to 573 million in 2050. The fastest increase in the number of older persons is expected in Northern Africa and Western Asia, rising from 29 million in 2019 to 96 million in 2050 (an increase of 226 percent).

The second-fastest increase is projected for sub-Saharan Africa, where the population aged 65 or over could grow from 32 million in 2019 to 101 million in 2050 (218 percent). By contrast, the increase is expected to be relatively small in Australia and New Zealand (84 percent) and in Europe and Northern America (48%), regions where the population is already significantly older than in other parts of the world.

Among development groups, less developed countries excluding the least developed countries will be home to more than two-thirds of the world’s older population (1.1 billion) in 2050. Yet the fastest increase is projected to take place in the least developed countries, where the number of persons aged 65 or over could rise from 37 million in 2019 to 120 million in 2050 (225%).

Iran to have oldest population in region by 2050

Iran will have the highest rate of elderly citizens by the next thirty years, deputy health minister Alireza Raeisi, has said.

The country is fast moving towards an aging population with a shrinking birth rate each year.

Nicholas Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), wrote in an article earlier in July that the fertility rate in Iran has dropped by 70 percent over the past 30 years, which has been the highest decline in human history.
“Over the past four decades, life expectancy has increased from 50 years to more than 70 years, 21.4 years for men, and 23.4 years for women.”

According to the statistics, the elderly constitute 9.26 percent of the country’s population which will reach up to 30 percent over the next three decades.

Elderly women outnumber elderly men by a ratio of 100 to 97.6, he said, adding, while the economic participation rate of the elderly is about 12.2 percent.

According to the Welfare Organization, out of 720 people studied, about 285 were elderly with depression, and between 8 and 10 were diagnosed with dementia.

The national document on older persons, the roadmap showing the way for better planning for the elderly, unveiled on October 1st, 2019.

Non-medical service delivery, designing health care centers based on the elderly needs, updating service packages, active participation in osteoporosis control, monitoring mental health and nutrition of the elderly, designing tool to screen bone density and fractures, providing them treatment services at home, and elderly-friendly pharmacy was among the Ministry's programs for this part of the society.

With the onset of COVID-19, isolation is intensified, so that elderly should remain active and continue social communication, and we must increase care for them more than before. Therefore, the responsible bodies are committed to raise awareness, promote culture, and implement more care programs in this regard.

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