A comprehensive annual health checkup for senior citizens was launched at Genekha Basic Health Unit (BHU) in Thimphu yesterday to observe the world elder abuse awareness day.  

This is part of Royal Society for Senior Citizens’ (RSSC) initiative in collaboration with health ministry to strengthen community-based elderly care.

World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. 

A press release from RSSC said that globally about six percent of elderly suffer from some form of abuse.

Former health secretary, Dr Sangay Thinley, said that there are plans to carry out the project in 16 hospitals and BHUs across the country. “Annual comprehensive health checkup will not only help identify problems related to health but also problems related to isolation.”  

If there are problems, RSSC will help care for the elderly people by training relatives and volunteers in the community. “We are promoting the concept of community elder care which the health ministry started. However, the programme for the elderly healthcare had not really been annual which means there is no continuity.” 

He said that the checkup would strengthen the current elderly programme with more focus on the disease prevention. “Haemoglobin check and urine tests would be conducted. A thorough checkup of the body would be conducted including the state of heart, lungs, and abdomen.”

Records will be maintained so that the person can be advised and get treated, he said.

The press release also stated that the purpose of the checkup is to pilot a more comprehensive checkup than the one being carried out by health ministry’s elderly care programme and to make it regular so that the health of the elderly can be monitored on an annual basis. 

It also stated that the checkup would help take measures to prevent diseases and institute appropriate treatment and care for diseases.  

President of RSSC, Lyonpo Dago Tshering, said  even if concerns of elderly people cannot be erased completely, the checkup was initiated with the expectation that the concerns would at least be eased.

SD Eastern Bhutan Ferro Silicon’s chairman, Sonam Dukpa, donated Nu 1 Million (M) to the organisation to help carry out the activities of RSSC.

According to available reports, the greatest fear and worry among the elderly were getting seriously ill without having anyone to look after them. 

It was found that health is one of the most important concerns of the elderly, particularly in terms of their inability to access the services due to limited mobility and overcrowding in health facilities.

According to the press release, there are about 58,804 elderly people (above 60 years of age) in the country.

RSSC, health ministry, and Thimphu dzongkhag administration organised the programme.  

Rinchen Zangmo