Vietnam sees alarming rise in elderly abuse, abandonment

VIETNAM’S elderly face issues of dependency and lack of support, leaving many of them exposed to mistreatment by those charged with their care.

As the problems remain unaddressed, there have been dozens of cases involving the negligence, physical, emotional or psychological abuse of the elderly in Vietnam over the past few years.

According to a recent survey conducted among 600 seniors across three communes in the central provinces of Phu Yen, Quang Tri and Dak Lak, three per cent of seniors said their children beat them, 8.3 per cent were threatened to be locked up, and 15 per cent were abandoned.

A total 33.4 per cent said they were criticised and scolded often, said the survey conducted by the Institute for Family and Gender Studies.

The Vn Express news portal said that according to the General Office for Population and Family Planning under the Ministry of Health, people aged over 60 in Vietnam made up some 11.95 per cent of the country’s population in 2017, equalling 11 million.

It is forecast by 2029, Vietnam would have some 16.5 million elderly citizens, accounting for 17 per cent of the entire population. But up to 70 per cent live without pensions, the office said.

They may face multiple challenges and depend on their children, leading to issues of dependency and personal indebtedness, one of the most popular reasons causing mistreatment amid a rapidly aging population.

Culture also plays an important part in elderly abuse. It is widely believed Vietnamese invest all of their money in their children’s education and future, so in their old age, they could return the favour.

Yelling, beatings and abandonment are also being increasingly brought to light on social media.

Another reason for the mistreatment of senior citizens is the lack of knowledge and skills related to elderly care.

Former Deputy Minister of Health Pham Le Tuan said about 72.3 per cent of senior Vietnamese are living with their offspring, but caregivers still lack knowledge and there should be a strategy to improve their understanding.

In the last few years, many urbanites have employed helpers and caregivers to care for their parents, without the necessary training and experience.

Even as more cases are uncovered, the penalties are not a deterrent, according to Nguyen Thi Lan from the Vietnam National Committee on Aging.

He said there are more cases of elderly abuse that go unreported and unaddressed.

Reporting or even admitting incidents of senior abuse is taboo in Vietnam as it is considered a private matter to be kept within the family, a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report said.

The Law on the Elderly stipulates sons, daughters and children support and care for their elderly fathers, mothers or grandparents, and that mistreating them is illegal and those found doing so could be jailed for up to five years.

But the country has no hotline to protect seniors in case of emergency or programmes preparing younger generations for old age.

“Vietnam, as well as other countries, where aging is a relatively new phenomenon, have not paid much attention to this aspect,” according to UNFPA.

Recently, the demands for nursing homes have increased as many Vietnamese work and live far away from their elderly relatives, according to To Duc, former deputy head of the Department of Social Assistance under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

But the “nursing home system in Vietnam is very weak,” he said.

The country faces a shortage in the availability of nursing homes as the population ages, with government support and private-sector investment slow to emerge.

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