Is Vietnam ready to embrace eldercare homes?

March 13, 2024 | 03:15 pm PT
Ha Duc Tri Businessman
Last month the media reported some Vietnamese renowned artists were moved into the Thi Nghe Elderly Care Center in HCMC's Binh Thanh District. This was great news for me as a fan.

I am happy for the artists who have a state facility to take care of them. There they will be well cared for, with doctors on regular duty to monitor their health.

Most of these former artists are over 80, some even over 90, and the things that feature in their lives now are not songs or music but old age, illness and loneliness.

More eldercare centers and nursing homes are needed in today's society. Such centers are not just for people who do not have family members to take care of, like those artists, but also other elderly people in need.

With its rapidly aging population, Vietnam is among the countries with a high proportion of older people.

Vietnamese law defines elderly people as those aged 60 and above.

The General Statistics Office predicts that by 2038 the number of elderly people will reach around 21 million, accounting for 20% of the country’s population.

The growing senior population puts pressure on the country to establish social welfare policies, including for eldercare.

Eldercare centers exist in three forms: state-supported centers run by the Ministry and the Department of Social Affairs, private ones and charity centers operated by religious organizations like churches.

But they are not as developed or funded as in other countries with similar or higher aging rates as Vietnam.

Japan is a prime example of a country with extensive experience in establishing optimal social policies for seniors and setting up care facilities for them. This "super-aged" country has over 36 million seniors, accounting for some 30% of the population and the world's highest ratio of older people. Many seniors live in solitude as they enter their twilight years.

A former Japanese colleague of mine was haunted by a social phenomenon called kodokushi, or lonely death, which happens frequently in her homeland. Kodokushi refers to the silent departure of solitary older people in their own homes, unnoticed by anyone.

To mitigate this near crisis, the Japanese are developing high-quality eldercare centers. They are bolstering training and recruitment of nurses for the elderly (kaigo-shoku) not only domestically but also from abroad.

Vietnam currently has the highest number of interns studying and working in this field in Japan. During a trip to Japan, I met a young Vietnamese woman from the Mekong Delta working as a kaigo-shoku intern. When I asked about her future, she mentioned her dream of establishing a small nursing home in Vietnam once she leaves Japan.

Her only concern was that Vietnamese culture might not be accustomed to the idea of leaving family members in eldercare centers.

I understand and sympathize with her.

But major cities like HCMC and Hanoi have high-quality private senior care centers that are based on models found in developed countries.

These get a significant number of families with the financial means to afford their services. This indicates a change in the mindset of many Vietnamese families. Even the older people themselves recognize the convenience of the amenities available at these centers.

Many want their families to let them live there and participate in their activities.

But any decision to leave elderly parents or grandparents in a nursing home is not easy. The family traditions in eastern cultures, heavily focused on love and filial piety, might be at odds with modern society's approach to eldercare.

Another obstacle is that most of these centers cost far beyond what a majority of the population can afford.

Not every senior can afford eldercare centers, leaving in a less than ideal situation with their children and grandchildren.

Nothing would be better for the elderly if there could be a harmonious combination of traditional culture and modern living to create a new life where they no longer feel lonely.

Allowing parents and grandparents to integrate into communal life with peers on weekdays before returning to their families during weekends and holidays could be a good option.

Any blame will only arise when families dump all their responsibilities on care centers and ignore their own roles and duties. That will truly be neglect and indifference worthy of criticism.

The final issue is that those opening eldercare centers and nursing homes need to have a fee system compatible with the living standards of Vietnamese families.

Quality and minimum safety levels must also be guaranteed to build trust.

When there is such a system, I believe many elderly people will choose to live happily among people their own age rather than lost and lonely in the houses of their busy children.

*Ha Duc Tri is a business director at Willis Towers Watson Vietnam (WTW).

The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily match VnExpress's viewpoints. Send your opinions here.
go to top