Yangyel Lhaden

The National Policy for Senior Citizens of Bhutan, a comprehensive document spanning 16 pages, was launched last year with the overarching goal of fostering a harmonious society that fully integrates senior citizens into an inclusive framework.

This integration entails several key objectives, including active participation in policy formation and decision-making processes, provision of secure housing, social security measures, and safeguarding their rights.

Bhutan’s elderly population is witnessing unprecedented growth, driven by declining fertility rates and increased life expectancy.

In 2022, individuals aged 60 and above constituted 9.5 percent of the population, a figure expected to double to 19.7 percent by 2047.

Similarly, those aged 65 and above made up 6.6 percent of the population in 2022, projected to rise to 13.4 percent by 2047.

The policy represents a strategic response to the challenges confronting senior citizens, with a focus on enhancing their well-being and enabling meaningful contributions to the country’s development.

The current generation of elderly individuals, particularly those residing in rural areas, faces numerous obstacles, including health issues, housing insecurity,financial difficulties, and sometimes neglect or abuse from younger generations.

For instance, in 2017, the poverty rate among the elderly was 10 percent, significantly higher than the 2 percent poverty rate among those under 25 years old.

The policy comprises nine key interventions, covering areas such as family and social support, safety and security, multigenerational bonding, health and well-being, economic security, productivity and engagement, access to infrastructure and public services tailored to the elderly, media and information accessibility, and research and development.

Economic security is a significant focus, with calls for equal opportunities for senior citizens to engage in productive activities and initiatives to support their livelihoods, including entrepreneurship, skill-based training, and access to finance.

Addressing the stark financial exclusion among seniors, where individuals aged 86 and above experience an 82.8 percent exclusion rate, is a priority.

Additionally, the policy advocates for expanding pension coverage and introducing various pension schemes to improve financial security.

Family and social support mechanisms are also highlighted, promoting traditional caregiving practices while providing incentives for caregivers and supporting institutional-based care within communities.

Furthermore, the policy emphasises the importance of multigenerational bonding, ensuring the transmission of knowledge and cultural heritage from seniors to younger generations, and bridging the digital gap between them.

Other key areas covered by the policy include safety and security, health and well-being, productivity and engagement, infrastructure accessibility, media and information access, and research and development.

The Royal Society for Senior Citizens, in collaboration with the Office of Cabinet Affairs and Strategic Coordination, is spearheading the policy’s implementation, tasked with providing guidance and coordinating efforts among various government agencies and stakeholders.

Regular reviews of the policy’s implementation are scheduled every three years.