Cyprus Mail

Aging population remains a challenge

Cypriot women who reach the age of 65 can expect to live another 21.6 years on average while Cypriot men will only manage on average another 18.6 years once they reach that age, according to Eurostat figures released on Tuesday.

The average woman in the EU can look forward to another 21.3 years once she reaches 65 and the average EU man another 17.9 years, giving Cypriot pensioners of both genders a small edge over their counterparts in the rest of the bloc.

Across member states, life expectancy for women at 65 ranged from less than 18 years in Bulgaria to more than 23 years in France and Spain. For men it varied from less than 14 years in Latvia to more than 19 years in France, Spain and Luxembourg.

The percentage of the population in Cyprus over the age of 65 was 13.9 per cent last year while 3.1 per cent were over the age of 80, figures that will rise to 25.2 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively by 2080, Eurostat said.

“The European Union as a whole is confronted with an ageing population,” Eurostat said.

In 2014, the proportion of persons aged 65 or over reached 18.5 per cent in the EU and it is projected to further increase to almost 30 per cent by 2080.

In particular, the proportion of persons aged 80 or over among the total EU population is expected to more than double, from just over 5 per cent in 2014 to more than 12 per cent by 2080.

“This demographic trend confronts the EU with major challenges, notably regarding the economic situation and social inclusion of older people,” it said.

Member States with the highest proportions of population aged 80 or over were Italy (6.4 per cent), Greece (6.0 per cent), Spain and France (5.7 per cent each). Conversely, the lowest proportions were found in Ireland and Slovakia (both with 3.0 per cent of their population aged 80 or over) as well as in Cyprus (3.1 per cent).

In the EU, 18.2 per cent of persons aged 65 or over were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In Cyprus this figure was 26 per cent. Pensioners in the Netherlands were better off that all others in the EU with only 6.1 per cent being at risk of poverty.

The figures were released to mark October 1 International Day of Older Persons.

In Cyprus Labour minister Zeta Emilianidou, at an the event, hosted by the federation of associations for the welfare of the elderly, announced the launch of the island wide ‘Older persons week’, to take place between October 1 and 7, titled ‘Spread love to older people with generosity’. The aim of the week is to raise awareness on issues the elderly face and to show appreciation for their overall contribution to society, she said.

At the same time, she announced that around 3,500 low income pensioners have since last week received the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) allowance.

She added that according to the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, the contribution of older persons in modern society can be ensured as long as they maintain a good level of health and a good quality of life.

“We have to formulate policies, services and programmes to ensure that our seniors are kept as healthy, active and independent as possible,” the minister said.

“Let us not forget that taking care for our elderly, we protect their right to a dignified and independent life, participation in social and cultural life, but at the same time maintain social cohesion.”

She said low–income pensioners were also entitled to a 20 per cent discount on electricity bills according to a new decree, she said, while in addition to their pensions, the elderly may benefit from various programmes for additional economic assistance and care services.

The head of the welfare associations, Kyrenia Bishop Chrysostomos, said that the expected aging of the population should push urban areas to include projects for improving access, mobility, communication, and safety as part of the social inclusion of the elderly. On the other hand, he added, elderly residents of rural and mountainous areas should not be neglected.

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