With the world getting older (by 2030, there will be more people over 60 than under 10), the need to take care of the elderly is more pressing than ever. The Global Agewatch Index compiled by the United Nations leaves no doubt that Poland has a lot of work to do.
Only 60 percent of older Poles think their life has any meaning
The index, which takes four factors into account: income security, health status, employment and education and an enabling environment (older people’s perception of social cohesiveness, safety, civic freedom and access to public transport), puts Poland in 62nd place out of 91 countries surveyed.
‘A terrible and cruel place’
Poland performs best in the income security domain, ranking 20th. “It has high pension coverage and a very low old age poverty rate,” the report stated. However, when it comes to health issues, Poland is listed near the bottom, in 87th place. Poland needs to act fast, as by 2050, 35 percent of its population will be 60 or above (compared to some 20 percent currently). Jurek Owsiak, who runs the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (WO¦P), an annual charity drive which this year for the first time raised money for geriatric wards, called Poland “a terrible and cruel place, where seniors are treated the worst.”
In Poland, there is only one geriatrician for every 10,000 senior citizens, while in other EU member states this figure is between 2.5 and six MDs. Throughout Poland there are only 750 beds in geriatric wards.
Senior Polish citizens feel useless and unwanted. Only 60 percent of people over 50 feel their life has meaning. This is a worrisome result compared to other EU countries. In Germany, 100 percent of seniors are content with their life; in the UK it’s 90 percent. Poland also pales in comparison with other CEE countries. In Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, over 80 percent of seniors have a positive outlook on life.
“In other countries, senior citizens have many passions and hobbies. When they retire they finally have time to fulfill their plans. In Poland, older people after they’re done with working, have nothing better to do than sit at home and watch TV,” Janusz Czapiński, professor of psychology at the University of Warsaw and the lead author of a long-running research project on Polish society’s living conditions called “Social Diagnosis,” told Gazeta Wyborcza.
Nevertheless, the report gives Poland much-needed hope, saying that even though the current situation for seniors is harrowing, there’s a chance for improvement. “Poland’s economic performance compared with other large EU economies means it has great potential for improving the well-being of its older citizens,” reads the report.
In the UN study, Sweden was ranked as the best place for senior citizens to live in, while Afghanistan was listed as the worst.
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