STA, 1 October 2020 - An ageing society, Slovenia has some 424,000 elderly, that is people aged 65 or more, or almost 20% of its population. Still, the elderly seem to be quite fit, with over a third saying their health is good or very good prior to the 1 October International Day of Older Persons, this year dedicated to health amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the moment the most burning issue regarding the elderly in Slovenia is containing the spread of the virus at care homes, which are home to some 4% of the elderly.
Related: Slovenia’s Aging Population, in Graphic Form (as shown in the main image to this story)
Several care homes were hotspots of the spring wave of the coronavirus epidemic, with official statistics showing more than 80% of all fatalities were older than 75.
The epidemic has also painfully exposed the dire staffing situation at public care homes, although they can count on 550 new jobs in the next two years.
The government has already earmarked EUR 29 million for the purpose, while the new stimulus package, which is yet to be passed in parliament, is to introduce the option of temporary redeployment of care and health staff to care homes.
Another burning issue is the long time it takes to get a bed in a care home; data from the Association of Care Homes show over 12,200 applications are pending.
The ministry in charge of social affairs has promised additional beds would be provided through concessions for public care home services and through the drawing of EU funds.
The EU funds would be used to increase daycare centre and temporary accommodation capacity, with a tender for building 20 daycare centres and 10 temporary accommodation units currently open, Minister Janez Cigler Kralj has recently said.
Capacity constraints are also expected to be further addressed with a new bill on long-term care, which would make the elderly eligible for assistance at home, if they wish so.
More funds for the elderly are to come from the planned national demographic fund, which is to manage state assets worth almost EUR 8.6 billion, and provide 10% of dividends and the money from the sale of state assets for building elderly homes. 40% of the dividends would go to co-finance the public pension budget.
In its message issued prior to International Day of Older Persons, the Slovenian Pensioner Association (ZDUS) urged treating the elderly as equals in society.
ZDUS joined calls by international NGOs and the UN for for inter-generational cooperation, tolerance, cooperation and fight against prejudice and discrimination on the basis of age. It said the elderly do not want to be a burden, they demand only what they are entitled to by the constitution and by modern civilisational standards.
Other associations have highlighted the Covid-19-related issues they face.
The pensioners' trade union pointed out that the novel coronavirus and its ramifications had revealed that the authorities had been ignoring burning issues of the elderly for decades.
There is still no long-term care system, whereas healthcare has not been adjusted to the needs of the elderly and disabled. A large number of older persons live in poverty and unacceptable living conditions and there is not enough bed vacancies in nursing homes, it added.
Srebrna Nit, an association promoting dignified old age, warned about obstacles which had prevented the elderly from making use of new measures introduced this year.
Small pensions that are not enough to make it possible for the elderly to redeem government holiday vouchers and technical issues preventing them from using free public transportation are examples of such obstacles.
New Covid-19-related restrictions for the elderly are on the horizon after the community was already restricted to certain shopping hours during the epidemic, said Srebrna Nit, deeming the measure discriminatory towards older persons and a violation of human rights.
Similarly, Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Miha Lobnik said the elderly had been severely affected by the pandemic, urging the government not to forget about their needs when attending to public interest.
Urging proportionate measures in protecting vulnerable groups, he said the elderly had been allowed to do their shopping only in dedicated hours while banned from shops in the rest of the day for a period during the spring lockdown, adding no other EU country had had such a measure in place.
The UN declared the day 30 years ago to highlight the role of older persons and their contribution in society, with this year's lead theme being "Pandemic: Do They Change how We Address Age and Ageing?"
Statistics Office (SURS) data for 2019 show that 37% of Slovenian elderly people assessed their health as good or very good, up from 26% in 2010, as opposed to 21% who said their health was poor or very poor, down from 33%.
Nevertheless, 65% of all older persons had a chronic condition or another health issue, but 57% engage in recreational activity at least 150 minutes a week, which is the World Health Organisation's minimum to keep healthy.
SURS data for the start of 2019 show that the share of the elderly in Slovenia rose from 17% ten years ago to almost 20% in 2019, which translates into some 424,000 people.
However, the EUROPOP 2019 projection for Slovenia shows that in ten years' time the elderly will account for 24% of Slovenia's population; in 50 years the share will rise to 31%.
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