Elly Burhaini Faizal, Jakarta – The government must be prepared to handle a rapidly growing number of elderly citizens as they will otherwise place a tremendous burden on the state, which is also facing a high birth rate.
"As the number of elderly people is estimated to double by 2050, we will bear a heavy impact from the growing number of degenerative diseases that are chronic and multi-pathology. These will require high medical costs," said Eka Fiora, head of the Health Ministry's intelligence center, at a media briefing on Saturday's World Health Day focusing on aging and health.
In 2050, the proportion of the world's population over the age of 60 in 2050 is expected to double to 22 percent. Between 2006 and 2050, the elderly population is expected to rise from 650 million to 2 billion.
For the first time in history, the elderly will outnumber children aged under 14 by 2050, potentially resulting in health and social problems.
Samlee Plianbangchang, the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia region office (WHO SEARO) director, said there was an urgent need to focus on issues such as the economic impact from the increased burden on health care systems and ways to ensure the elderly's quality of life.
"Both the family and the state should provide care to older people who are in need of assistance," he said in a statement.
In Indonesia, approximately 28.8 million people, or 11.34 percent of the population in 2020, will be aged over 60, up from 24 million (9.7%) in 2010 and 11.3 million (7.4%) in 2000.
Despite regulations, Eka said many elderly people still faced difficulties in accessing appropriate public services. "Few health care systems, buildings and public transportation services provide access for the elderly." She also said many live without any social welfare programs to help them age comfortably. "With no social protection, the elderly's conditions can become worse," she said.
National Commission for the Elderly (Komnas Lansia) chief, Nugroho Abikusno, said developing countries were facing a rapid growth of the elderly population accompanied with parallel growth in poverty.
"Facing an elderly boom in 2050, we have to invest more in elderly-friendly infrastructure," he said.
He said that some regencies and municipalities, including Rokan Hulu, Riau, and Semarang, Central Java, have already developed elderly-friendly infrastructure like community health centers for older citizens. Elderly-friendly housing has also appeared in some cities.