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Saudi Arabia absent from Global Agewatch Index

The absence of care for the Kingdom’s elderly population can be seen in the lack of medical insurance

Published: Updated:

On the occasion of the International Day of the Older Persons, which the UN annually observers on Oct. 1, a member of the Saudi National Committee of Retirees has criticized the lack of care the elderly receive in the Kingdom.

Fawziyah Akhdar, chairwoman of the committee's female section, told Al-Hayat newspaper recently that the absence of care for the Kingdom’s elderly population can be seen in the lack of medical insurance for the elderly and the nonexistence of rules and regulations that protect their rights and dignity.

She noted that the Kingdom has been absent from the Global Agewatch Index, which measures the social and economic welfare of those over 60. The indicator obtains its data from reports filed by the UN and the World Bank.

She described the conditions of the elderly in the Kingdom as “miserable” and said shelter homes for them are in poor condition with very few resources.

“Good health care for the elderly is unavailable. There is no medical insurance coverage for them,” she said.

Akhdar said the Kingdom’s elderly population is unable to benefit from the free medical care government hospitals provide because many of them are unable to go to government hospitals. “Some of them have no children or relatives who can take them to these hospitals,” she said.

“In developed countries, the elderly are provided healthcare right in their homes. These countries send medical teams to make sure that people with chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension take their medicines regularly,” she added. Akhdar said the current rules and regulations being applied by the concerned government departments fall short of ensuring the elderly can life a dignified life. She asked for providing the elderly with comprehensive medical insurance, transportation and a steady income.

According to Akhdar, there are no accurate statistics on the Kingdom’s elderly population but she estimated the number of those above 60 to be around 700,000.

”This is just an estimated figure because the Pension Fund and the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) are not cooperating to supply the committee with accurate data,” she said while adding that the Kingdom has been absent from the list of 96 countries, with 91 percent of the world's population, included in the Global Agewatch Index.

This article was first published on the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 4, 2014.