The elderly ought to be given more attention
Monthly subsidies for the elderly will soon become a reality. The DPP
government has budgeted NT$16 billion for the subsidies in the next fiscal
Once the legislature has finished debating the legislation, all senior citizens over 65 who are not covered by other pension programs will get NT$3,000 in subsidies a month. But how many of the problems faced by the elderly will be solved by these subsidies?
According to the last census, conducted last year and published by the Executive Yuan on Dec. 5, the number of senior citizens over 65 has increased by 52.7 percent from the last census 10 years ago.
They now account for 8.5 percent of the population. Of the nation's 1,892,000 senior citizens, about 300,000, or 16 percent, live alone; more than 172,000 of them, or 9.1 percent, need long-term care. The census also shows that those who live with their children account for about 60 percent of the elderly population. Less than half of the elderly live off their children.
The average life expectancy in Taiwan is 75 years.
There are three kinds of problems facing the elderly: economic, daily life and spiritual. Obviously, the NT$3,000 in monthly subsidies are not enough for the basic living expenses of the elderly if they have no savings or support from their relatives.
Moreover, the daily care, health care and emotional problems of the elderly are just as important as their incomes.
That being so, what measures has the government proposed to help the 40 percent of the elderly who do not live with their children? And what is being done for 300,000 senior citizens who live alone and the 172,000 who need long-term care?
As for senior citizens who are in relatively better physical condition, has the government provided any places or activities for them to enrich their spiritual and social lives?
The legislature should consider other welfare systems for the elderly. For example, we need to have more care centers, schools and leisure centers for the elderly to provide food for the soul, door-to-door medical care for those who are paralyzed or have chronic diseases, and more professional social workers.
The elderly could even be offered legal protection, perhaps through something similar to Singapore's Maintenance of Parents Act (孝親條款). Taiwan has none of these.
Instead, the government is promoting the elderly subsidies while the opposition parties are objecting to them to further their own political agendas.
The political parties in Taiwan should put aside political considerations and prepare stable, long-term financial resources to build high-quality elderly care centers, provide universal and affordable health care, train social workers to supply professional services for the elderly, build a sustainable and healthy retirement pension system, and amend the Civil Code (民法) and the Elders' Welfare Law (老人福利法) to legally require children to support and respect their parents.
These services are much more important than elderly subsidies.
As the old Chinese saying goes, "Take care of one's own elderly parents first, and then extend the same care to all elderly people" (老吾老以及人之老).
When our parents become too old to take care of themselves, isn't it our responsibility to look after them and give them respect in the twilight of their lives?
Huang Kuei-nan is the former director-general of the Bureau of Labor Insurance under the Council of Labor Affairs.
Translated by Eddy Chang
【國際邊緣】 ＊ 【青少年解放陣線】＊【青少年解放】