As people live longer, meaning of elderly redefined

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As people live longer, meaning of elderly redefined

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is re-evaluating the term noin, or elderly, since life expectancy is on the rise and the population of senior citizens over age 65 has reached over a million in the city alone. The city government said Sunday it will be renaming “senior” welfare and community centers into something that reflects the vitality and energy of the older citizens.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced yesterday the results of a survey it conducted with the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs for one year between April of last year and this year of 11,542 senior citizens over the age of 65 nationwide.

About eight in 10 senior citizens over the age of 65 stated they consider the standard of “elderly” as those older than 70. When the same question was asked in 1994 through an independent survey, only 30 percent of respondents stated that those over 70 years old should be considered as “elderly,” and 55.8 percent in a 2004 independent survey. The survey results show that the the age of someone to receive this designation is going up.

More than one in 10 senior citizens over the age of 65 stated that they have contemplated suicide, according to a recent study by the Health Ministry, and one-tenth of these respondents said they have tried to act upon these thoughts after the age of 60.

Of these senior respondents who stated they have considered suicide, 32.7 percent said that health factors were a reason, while 30.9 percent claimed financial difficulties, 15.3 percent stated tension with friends and family and one-tenth stated loneliness.

More than nine in 10 senior women and eight in 10 senior men have chronic diseases, more than half suffering from high blood pressure, some 40 percent from arthritis and one-fifth from diabetes.

An official of senior policy at the Health Ministry stated yesterday, “With the results of the survey and a forum to discuss the development of welfare policies for the elderly, policies will be developed to address healthcare, leisure time, income and rights of these senior citizens.”

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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