Sesion12:

Population and Ageing Policy

 

In this session 3 papers were presented which are, respectively, (1) “Global Age Watch Index as an Assessment Tool of Policy-makings for the Elderly: Lessons from Iran”. Majid Koosheshi, Asghar Zaidi (2) “A Comparative Study on Demographic Policies in Muslim countries” Mahmoud Moshfegh, Abbas Fakhari, Mehdi Khalili (3) “The Need for a Community Center for the Elderly for Widows Living by Themselves in a Shiraz Area” Mary Hegland.

In the following paragraphs, a brief report of each article will be represented.

(1)

 One of the tools for monitoring the status of older people, recently developed, is the Global Age Watch Index (GAWI). The index comprises of four domains and thirteen indicators, including capability status of older people as well as some environmental and economic characteristics. Currently, 96 out of 194 countries worldwide, among which 23 are Asian, are reported in the GAWI. However, Iran is not among this cluster. The purpose of this article is to include Iran in the reporting system of the GAWI. To do so, all thirteen indicators for Iran have been calculated based on national and international available data, and the rank of the country in all four domains was identified. The results show that, Iran has ranked 79 among 97 countries, which is equal to Turkey. The highest rank has been obtained on the health status of elder people and the lowest on the capability domain. The GAWI is not only useful in monitoring the status of older people, but also an effective tool in identifying priorities and exposing weaknesses and obstacles for programming and policy formulation purposes. At the same time, the GAWI has some disadvantages. For example, gender difference in the status of the elderly cannot be assessed using this index. Thus, to assess the effectiveness of social policies on the socio-economic status of the elderly, many questions remain, which require further studies.

(2)

In this paper, demographic policies have been studied and evaluated, including the government policies on population growth, fertility and ageing population among the Muslim countries – countries with more than 50 percent Muslim population. on the one hand, and lack of effective population policy, on the other. 53% of Muslim countries convey population growth control policies, and 31% of them want to maintain the recent population growth rate. 15.6% of countries reviewed, including Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Algeria, and Albania, are concerned with the aging population in their country. These countries have taken two major policies in this regard: 1. Change in statutory retirement age; 2. Reform in the pension system. Measures adopted to address population ageing are 1. Raising the minimum retirement age (22%), 2. Raising social security contributions of workers (28.1%), 3. Introducing or enhancing non-contributory old-age pensions (28.1%), 4. Promoting private savings schemes for retirement (25%). Policy on fertility level is different among Muslims countries: 1. Raising fertility (15.6%) including Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, 2. Maintaining recent fertility level (21.9%) including Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Albania, Moldavia, and Azerbaijan. 3. The policy to decline fertility (53.3%) for instance, Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Jordan, and Mauritania. At the third and fourth stages of demographic transition, countries face dramatic changes in age structure, namely demographic window. At present, in Muslim countries, more than 70 percent of the population is aged 15-64. Regarding population age structures, these countries must have effective policies to create job opportunities. If this happens, the demographic phenomenon of the demographic window can play a significant role in the economic growth of the countries. In the absence of effective policy, the accumulation of youth needs will have negative political and social consequences for Muslim countries.


(3)

Based on a total of three years of field research in the Shiraz community of “Aliabad,” this paper will present findings about how conditions have changed in the last forty years and how these changes have affected the lives of the elderly. The paper will also propose some possibilities for city, provincial, or central government departments – charity organizations and NGOs to develop programs to serve the elderly and more fully engage them in meaningful, social, religious, and community life. Forty years ago, when this scholar first went to Aliabad, elderly lived with their children, generally a son, and the son’s wife took care of any needs of the elderly people. Since forty years ago, even in more rural, out-lying areas, great advances have been made in education, nutrition, transportation, communication, and standards of living. In Aliabad, most people are now able to live in urban-type, modern, well-furnished, nuclear family homes inside a courtyard. Unfortunately, such advances have also had negative effects for the elderly, in some cases. Although forty years ago, not one widow in Aliabad lived by herself, these days at least half of older widows live alone. Children get married and move to their own nuclear family homes and are very busy with their own lives and raising, educating, and supporting their children. There often are not the extra resources and time to also take care of elderly parents. Although the middle-aged, “sandwich generation” would like to pay more attention to and assist their parents, it is hard to do so simultaneously with raising their children. Elderly women are often left to cope on their own. Some elderly women do not attain adequate nutrition, health care, and socializing. Given that social relations are extremely significant for Iranians, these are all hardships. In Shiraz, some homes for elderly do exist. However, the community culture of Aliabad is very much against placing an elderly mother in an institution. To fit in with the Iranian, Islamic culture, this paper will outline a type of program that could establish a site in a community where elderly could come for their noon meal and noon prayers. This site would also include some personnel to go and visit the elderly, making sure no one falls beneath the cracks. For individuals who cannot easily get out, the center for the elderly in the community could provide a hot meal at noon taken to the homes of the elderly. Such assistance would be especially useful for females; elderly females were often some years younger than their husbands when they got married decades ago, and thus they live longer than males, and will often be left alone when their husbands die. Further the local culture teaches that sons are responsible for their parents; daughters do not feel able to use their husbands’ earnings to care for or assist their parents. Yet, a daughter would be the one to feel more sympathetic for her mother and want to care for her. The son’s wife may not feel the same level of love and consideration for her husband’s mother; further she will likely be very busy with her own children. Therefore, elderly women especially, because of the many advancements and improvements in the last forty years, are sometimes in need of assistance that could be provided by a community center for the elderly. If a community center could be provided, most elderly could stay right in their homes and own communities and continue their social interaction with people they have known all their lives, participate in the religious and kinship life of the community, and continue to take part in the calendar of Islamic rituals and holy days. Given the rapidly changing social, cultural, and economic conditions, the old ways of tending to the needs of the elderly are much more difficult to carry out. It seems that more governmental charities and NGOs are necessary to help families and communities and to provide for the needs of the elderly. In the abstract for the conference, I have outlined some of the findings of my long-term research in this Shiraz community, and on the basis of the participant observation anthropological research, I will offer some suggestions about efforts and programs which might be appropriate as a means of helping the elderly lead more rewarding, healthy, and socially engaged lives, thus showing the elderly the respect and consideration which is part of the Islamic teachings and culture.