07 April 2012 1:05 pm | | 0

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Life expectancy for Tunisians has been increasing and is now estimated at 74.5 years, according to the World Bank.

As Tunisians are living longer, the aging population is expanding. One in ten Tunisians are over 60 years of age, according to the National Institute of Statistics. This figure is expected to increase to 15.2% in 2025 and 20% in 2039.

In Tunisia, institutions that care for and defend the elderly are few and far in between.

The Elderly Care Center is a shelter for the aged, who have lost all family support. It provides social interaction and entertainment to its residents and medical attention to elderly non-residents as well.

There is also the Tunisian Association of Retired Persons, which defends the rights of citizens over 60 years of age. According to Mohamed Msalmi, president of one of the association’s regional bureaus, 600,000 of the population are retired – their ages varying from 60 to 80 years – and only 10,000 of them are members of the association. The government funding that it receives amounts to 70,000 Tunisian dinars, which cannot cover the costs for all the regional and local bureaus of the association.

Besides the lack of civil society support for the elderly, other systemic challenges beset Tunisia’s aged. The elderly suffer from chronic diseases, which are not all covered by the national social security system. In addition, retired people do not enjoy free transportation and “are overburden by taxes deducted from their wages,” Msalmi added.

The result of such institutional negligence are felt by the elderly. Msalmi pointed out that a number of retired people in Tunisia suffer from depression and isolation. “They feel that they have lost their position in their families and that they are useless to society after they are no longer working and earning money,” he said.

Stephano Lazzari, the WHO’s representative in Tunisia, told Radio Express FM that the elderly have to be further integrated in the society instead of being considered as burdens.

World Health Day is celebrated each year on April 7. This date represents the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO), which was established on this very day in 1948. Each year on this occasion, the WHO chooses to highlight a global health problem and calls for immediate action towards its solution. This year, it has taken up the cause of the elderly with the catchphrase – “good health adds life to years.” The slogan captures this year’s appeal by the WHO to care for the world’s elderly and study ways to ensure that the world population enters old age in the best health possible.

Today, the government organized a seminar in collaboration with the WHO. The seminar was held this morning at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Gammarth. Tunisian Minister of Health Abdellatif Mekki was present at the event.

The seminar touched upon current health challenges for the elderly, the promotion of healthy behaviors, prevention of chronic disease through early detection, and the creation of social environments that foster good health.

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