President Nikos Christodoulides outlined his plans for the elderly, including plans for a national strategy and a national action plan, on Friday.
Christodoulides was addressing the European political conference on active, healthy, and dignified ageing at the Presidential palace, which had been co-organised by the Third Age Observatory and his own office.
He told attendees that Cyprus has “made important steps in recent years,” but said that elderly support is “to be completely honest, not an area we can be proud of”.
To this end, he said a lot needs to be done, and suggested that European countries such as the Netherlands should be used as examples.
He said that his government is “promoting the adoption of policies based on our current situation and by extension that meet the needs of modern society.”
He said the national strategy and action plan for the third age are being coordinated with this in mind, saying “our goal, among others, is the development of sustainable practices for social integration, healthy ageing, inclusion, socialisation, and the provision of quality support and health services.”
While the strategy is being formulated and implemented, he said, a series of interim measures are being devised to support the elderly in the short term.
The first is the timely payment of all allowances and benefits from the relevant social insurance services, including state pensions.
He said that at present, those who retire at the age of 65 receive their first pension payment within 30 days of their retirement, and that this will within the next two weeks begin applying to those who retire early.
As well as swift payments, he spoke about how the government aims to reform the pension system in 2024.
He said that a roadmap has been set out “to effectively manage the issues under discussion, to complete the relevant studies, and to develop a meaningful dialogue with the relevant social partners.”
These reforms, he said, will “reinforce” pensions for those on low incomes.
Additionally, he spoke about the specialised long-term care subsidy plan, which will aim to subsidise a proportion of nursing home fees for those who require nursing home care but cannot afford the costs. As well as this, he said the health ministry will now carry out more rigorous checks and evaluations on nursing homes.
He also spoke about the provision of a special public transport service for the elderly, which will be piloted by the Transport ministry and then evaluated for potential island-wide application.
“Through social benefits, the strengthening of care, integration, and inclusion services, quality medical care and prevention, we want to create a strengthened social protection network which will respect the fundamental right of every human being to live with dignity,” he said.
Also speaking at the event was Bishop Christophoros of Karpasia, who on behalf of Archbishop Georgios.
He said elderly people “should no longer have to face in their everyday lives the problems of abuse, neglect, economic exploitation, and discriminatory behaviour in the 21st century.”
He added that the church has shown concern for the elderly since the Byzantine era, and then spoke of a need for an increase in the number of nursing homes and more private caregivers.
Third Age Observatory Chairman Demos Antoniou also made remarks, saying that in the coming decades, up to 30 per cent of Cyprus’ population will be elderly.
He said that this fact will “create unprecedented challenges, but also unique opportunities”.
He called for policies to exploit the “silver economy” and “silver tourism”, that being contributions to the economy and tourism sector by elderly people and said that these can be developed and can create new jobs in multiple sectors.