THE Government is looking at amending the Family Law Act to make it mandatory for children to physically and financially take care of their parents as more and more of the country's elderly are beginning to live longer.
Permanent secretary for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Govind Sami told participants at a municipal consultative forum in Ba last week that the number of Fijians living beyond 80 years of age was rapidly increasing and as a result Fiji has to prepare itself for an ever-increasing ageing population moving into the year 2050.
Mr Sami said while there had been a noted increase in the number of people living 60 years old and more, the biggest increase was those living beyond 80, octogenarians.
"We are not prepared for this reality. It is happening right now and will become a problem if we don't plan for this as we move towards the year 2050. Social, food security and overcrowding issues need to be addressed now rather than waiting for the ageing population to become a big problem," Mr Sami said.
"Clean and efficient water supply, electricity demands and care facilities for the aged are some of the many issues that we need to look at now," he said.
Mr Sami said his department was seriously concerned about the increasing number of old people being left at aged care centres around the country.
"In many cases, the children are well-to-do but just do not want to be burdened with taking care of their parents for a number of reasons.
"They come and visit them once a year, bring some food and clothing and then forget about them for the rest of the year," Mr Sami said.
The government has affirmed its commitment to caring for the elderly with a temporary assistance program which disperses funds of $60 to $100 a month to over 65-year-olds without income support.
There is also an extension of the food voucher program to people who are more than 70 years old and who are not recipients of any form of government assistance.
Government is looking at ways to address the ageing population issue because statistics show that there are 5000 people over the age of 80 and this number is expected to increase to 30,000 by the year 2050.