In every country we did research so far, we found different approaches of dealing with loneliness, sickness, income and social exclusion in the lives of elderly. In Cambodia, the main 2 care systems are the (extended) family, and the Buddhist religion in pagoda’s. This leaves a lot of elderly uncared for, unable to meet even the most basic daily needs, like food, attention and health care.
In Cambodia they found an approach that brings new solutions for the difficulties in old age.They started with Older People Associations, and idea by Helpage international, and initiated in Cambodia by Helpage Cambodia. In short, an Older People Association (OPA) is a local network of elderly people, who work together to:
- improve the dignity and quality of life of older people;
- encourage and motivate older people to help each other by providing a forum to discuss their problems, develop solutions and celebrate important holidays and events;
- encourage and promote community support for vulnerable older people.
We were interested in this idea, and how it works in daily life in Cambodia. So we travelled to the headquarters of Helpage Cambodia, and are visiting Battambang right now. Most of Cambodia’s elderly population lives in a rural area, far from the main cities. Often the younger generation leave their small children in the rural area with their elderly parents to take care for them. Ways of existing for elderly are then limited to the money their children send them, or the work they can still physically do, like working in the rice fields, or raising and selling chickens or pigs. As soon as they cannot generate income themselves, their dependency on the gifts of their children and their neighbours increases drastically. One of the goals of OPA’s is to make elderly more independent. We will write more about how they do that on this website, an example is found in this article on elderly care by OPA.