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Vietnam's Elderly Population Will Double by 2035, Reach 32m by 2050

By 2035, the country's elderly population is expected to double from seven to 14% of the total population, and authorities are taking steps to prepare for the unique challenges the change in demographics will pose.

Forty government officials, including the heads of the ministries of labor, health and finance, attended a seminar on Wednesday in Hanoi to learn from Japanese and Thai experts as part of a knowledge-sharing program launched by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank. 

Thanks to decreased mortality and fertility rates and increased life expectancy, the number of elderly people in Vietnam is growing rapidly, with expectations of 32 million by 2050. An exhaustive 2011 report published by the United Nations Population Fund outlined major issues that must be addressed, including providing improved medical care, proper roles in occupational spheres, public awareness of aging populations and more accurate data collection and sharing.

One of the largest problems regarding an aging population relates to its disproportionate strain on health services. It takes on average of up to seven to eight times as much money to care for an elderly individual compared to a child, experts said at the seminar. With longer lives, expensive chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease increase, along with involved pharmaceutical needs. Moreover, rural areas often feature inadequate access and lack of necessary technologies.

As cultural norms and conditions change, fewer senior citizens are living with family members, so the burden for care falls on the state or individuals themselves. Because of economic realities and strict requirements, the current pension system cannot adequately support everyone in need

A 2016 plan approved by the Ministry of Health aims to provide 100% of all elderly with health insurance cards and at least one check-up exam per year. 

Following this week's seminar, Vietnamese officials will travel to Thailand for a study tour to witness what other professionals are doing in the field. Tetsuo Konaka, JICA's Vietnam Office’s Chief Representative explained: “We believe that by utilizing experiences and lessons learned from Thailand and Japan, Vietnam can learn how to develop and implement an effective care model for elderly people.”

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