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Caring for elderly

The increasing lifespan of the people of the Sultanate underscores its remarkable achievements in the healthcare sector. The people have longer productive life and the youth are healthier. The better facilities available across the nation are responsible for pushing up life expectancy, which touched 76.2 years in 2012. This would not have been possible without meticulous planning and expansion of the healthcare infrastructure. The steep increase in life expectancy achieved by the Sultanate remains difficult for other nations of the region to match. The expected doubling of the nation’s population in the next 30 years because of reduction in child mortality and better healthcare will bring with it a situation requiring the nation to reorient its approach to geriatric care. The number of people above 60 years, which was 127,000 in 2012, is expected to rise to 617,000 by 2050. As people live longer far beyond their productive age, the society will have to take care of the elderly for longer periods of time. This would require more facilities for geriatric care and palliative practices. A recent Ministry of Health report shows the nation’s overall achievements in providing quality healthcare facilities. The increasing awareness about health and factors causing illness has resulted in better health profile of the population. No wonder that the Sultanate continues to lead middle income nations with notable achievements in UN human development goals. The much-lauded three-tier public healthcare system that provides medical care to 81.1 per cent of the population will need some readjustments to effectively take care of the expected demographic shift. Of course the government has been giving particular care to building the right infrastructure that would help extend coverage across different parts of the Sultanate. The highly appreciated policy has been to take healthcare to the people of the remotest parts so as to reduce the need of people to travel to cities if the medical problem is minor. The progressive ageing of the population would mean the government must put in place the right infrastructure that could take care of the specialised needs of the 60 plus who would have a longer life to lead after their economically productive period in life. World over there are many examples of populations that have negotiated this change successfully without causing much disruption to societal cohesion. The nation’s focused efforts on improving the healthcare system, no doubt, have received international acclaim. No wonder that the Legatum Welfare Index ranks the Sultanate second in the entire Arab world. At the global level, it has achieved a creditable 26th ranking for the efficacy of the healthcare system. This has been possible because of huge investments in healthcare infrastructure. Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Sa’eedi has said the Sultanate has laid a strong foundation for the healthcare system. Along with providing the right infrastructure, the government has been focusing attention on training competent manpower. Even the most sophisticated machine is only as good as the person handling it. Therefore, training of the personnel is of extreme importance. The government has a successful programme to train nationals in the healthcare sector. It could extend this to areas of geriatric care and counselling.