259673 Healthy aging in Sri Lanka: Constraints and opportunities

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 2:42 PM - 2:54 PM

Bilesha Perera, PhD , Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna, Galle, Sri Lanka
Mohammad R. Torabi, PhD , Applied Health Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Sri Lanka has the fastest aging population in the South Asian region. Social policies in the country that allowed universal access to education and health care have largely contributed to reductions in infant mortality and fertility levels. As a result, a severe aging pressure is observed. A community survey (n= 443) using a representative sample of elders in southern Sri Lanka and four focus group discussions (n=32) were conducted to identify constraints of and opportunities for healthy aging. The proportion of widows among the elderly is higher than that of widowers. One fourth of elders were suffering from chronic non-communicable diseases. Loss of memory was the main psychological problem reported. The majority expressed particular frustration with health care professionals and programs they felt were insensitive to emerging health needs of elders. About 10% of the participants reported economic hardships, but the majority envisaged that social security would soon become a major public health issue. Elder's contribution to economic and social welfare of the family and the community was deemed significant and self-esteem and spiritual life would be more important than physical health for the elders to enjoy a healthy life. The country's elder care system is not presently equipped to care for an aging society. Health and social support systems should pay special attention to senior widows. Culture sensitive aging policies that could utilize the wisdom and workforce of the elderly in the development process are urgently needed to make elders a resource rather than a burden to the country.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Program planning
Public health or related nursing
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the demographic and epidemiological context of aging in Sri Lanka 2. Identify the health and economic impact of population aging in Sri Lanka 3. Identify mechanisums that could use to enhance quality of life of elders in Sri Lanka.

Keywords: Aging, Health Care Reform

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator of the research project that this presentation draws from.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.