SAFETY and security of elderly people, especially those living alone, should be a matter of concern.
Attributed to various reasons, elderly people are at times constrained to live away from their families and loved ones, which makes them particularly vulnerable to safety and security hazards.
Because of their physical weakness and lonely status, senior citizens are easy targets for criminals, especially in urban areas. They are more likely to be exploited by the unscrupulous.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation continues to address the need for communities to recognise the contributions of senior citizens.
Today, World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day is celebrated throughout the world and in Fiji.
This is a celebration to reward your contribution.
It's also an indication that people are living longer and we need to inculcate an inclusive and supportive environment for the elderly.
By the year 2050, Fiji will have more people over 60 years than those who will be below 15 years.
Studies have proven that Fiji's elderly population has increased over the past two decades with further increase expected over the next 50 years.
Projections have been made by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that the elderly — from the age of 60 years and over — in the Pacific region is expected to increase from 367,000 in 2000 to 2.3 million by 2050.
Fiji's Social Welfare and Women's Minister Dr Jiko Luveni said those statistics were alarming.
She called for immediate action to be taken for their welfare.
"This is an issue which our society can no longer ignore," Dr Luveni said.
In Fiji, she said older people were one of the most vulnerable groups because of the changing family structures, internal and external migration, and the weakening traditional, cultural and social systems.
She said many, particularly in rural Fiji, were facing increasing social isolation because of old age disabilities, poor health and longevity.
"With majority of the elderly residing in rural areas, the prevalence of old age disability is expected to remain high, particularly in rural communities, and against the backdrop of the financial economic crisis we are currently in, the care and welfare of the elderly is becoming a bigger social concern.
"Through studies, it has been found that disabled elderly are at a higher risk of poverty, which leaves them to deprivation and insecurity."
The State's official website reports that the global commitment towards the welfare of senior citizens was enhanced when the UN declared 1999 as the 'The Year of the Older Persons', and at Madrid in 2002 where the second world assembly on ageing was held.
In Fiji, Senior Citizens Week has been celebrated for almost two decades now to commemorate International Day for Older Persons (IDOP) on October 1.
It stated that as the needs of every elderly persons were expected to increase in the future, substantial input and planning from the government would be needed to articulate policy guidelines and allocate resources to create a safety net for the senior citizens in Fiji.
Government's decision to have this policy, it said, would be an ideal protection to ensure our senior citizens are provided the right opportunities to live their lives with respect and dignity.