Nearly a quarter of Indonesia’s population will be above 65 years of age by 2040. The government has to muster resources to prepare for an ageing population.

Issues of ageing need greater attention from Indonesian policymakers across central, state and local government, believes Mu’man Nuryana, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Social Accessibilities, Ministry of Social Affairs. “It is not only the responsibility of the family or community, but also of the government and private sector,” he says.

GovInsider caught up with Nuryana to discuss the challenges Indonesia now faces and how it is preparing to tackle them.

Battling loneliness

The Ministry of Social Affairs must “create a policy and programme to address long term loneliness and social isolation of this group of older people”, he says. The state and local governments already run a service sending social workers to provide residential care. “But this kind of last resort for them is very expensive”, he says. It costs the government at least 18 million rupiah (US$1,348) annually to provide social services for each elderly, he estimates.

The government plans to get some of these costs off its balance sheet, encouraging businesses and non-profits to provide more such home care services. It has a scheme that registers and accredits these services to ensure they are of quality. The top performing ones receive a subsidy from the government, he says. The poorer performers receive “technical assistance” to improve their services, he adds.

Traditionally, the elderly have been taken care of by their relatives, with three to four generations of a family living together. However, there is a now a trend towards “nuclear families”, with young couples moving away in search of better jobs. Such change is “very natural”, Nuryana says, but leaves the elderly living on their own.

Up and about

The Ministry also wants to get more people to continue working in their 60s and 70s. This will allow them to be more financially independent as their children move out. “Older people should be independent because there is a trend – even if small – that extended families are becoming nuclear families”, Nuryana says.

With overall improvements in healthcare, people can be fit to work even in their old age. Indonesians’ life expectancy has increased from 45 years in 1970 to 70 in 2013. “With longer life expectancy, they should be contributing to the society, and maybe producing something that could be beneficial for them to increase their income,” he says.

This vision is “contrary to the traditional concept” of retirement, he says. The retirement age in Indonesia is 60, and senior citizens prefer to devote their time to religious and social activities post-retirement, he says. “But we don’t have any choice, we have to alter this, because we are an open society,” he adds.

Local support

The Ministry also wants to get more local government support for activities for the elderly. One of his priorities this year will be the “promotion and advocation of local government to create productive activities for older people”, he says. Specifically, local governments should “provide budget, design programmes and arrange for human resources to help the group of older people in the rural areas,” he says.

Community activities for the elderly are poorly funded at the federal level. Such initiatives are not “mainstream” in the national agenda, “so central officials don’t consider and allocate budget”, he says. Additionally, “local government support is still weak”.

The Ministry of Social Affairs provides a monthly payment of 350,000 rupiah (US$26) to the poorest senior citizens. But “our budget is limited”, he says. The scheme covers 30,000 senior citizens, he says – or about 1.5% of the 2.5 million poor elderly people in the country, according to estimates by the national poverty reduction unit.

Social activities should be better organised, with local government providing “seed capital” to encourage the elderly to take up more healthy and active living, he says. Currently, such “activities are spontaneous and not systematically designed for efficiency and effectiveness,” he says.

The ministry also plans to invite associations of elderly people to “join in the policymaking process”. He would like them to meet with federal officials in the capital and also local representatives in provincial and municipal offices. “Working together, please design a new policy and programme to help these organisations belonging to older people to be more productive,” he urges.

As one of the fastest ageing countries in the region, Indonesia must bring the elderly from the sidelines to the centre of play.

GovInsider is running a dedicated stream on Ageing Demographics at Innovation Labs World on 26 September 2017. Find out more at www.innovationlabsworld.com.

Photo by HelpAge International at the ASEAN Regional Workshop on the Promotion of Older People’s Associations, 6-8 December 2016