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Sunday, 2 February 2014

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Rising elderly population lacks funding sources

Sri Lanka's elderly population is high compared to many countries in South Asia and those over 60 are expected to double by 2025, said HelpAge Sri Lanka, Program Director Dayal Perera at the the launch of micro-finance services by HelpAge last week.

He said there are over 2.4 million people over 60 years in the country which is around 12.2 percent of the population and added that a large number of senior citizens are non-pensioners with no access to funding sources. The ratio of men to women is 70:100. The number of women over 60 years is high and if there is no proper income source their dependence on the family will increase, Perera said. The elderly population in developing countries has risen sharply within a short span compared to developed countries.

The poverty level of those over 60 years is high. Senior citizens are disproportionately poor.

The quality of life among senior citizens in developed countries is high due to the retire rich policy.

Perera said that micro-finance comprises education and economic activities and strengthens relations between parents and children.

The repayment rate among senior citizens is 100 percent. Micro-finance began in Sri Lanka around 1906 and grew rapidly in the 1980s through cooperative societies and voluntary organisations. Around 60 institutions are involved in micro finance services.

Lanka Microfinance Practitioner's Association Director Bisowila Gunasekera said that banks are reluctant to fund senior citizens as they have no access to finance.

The skills of seniors citizens have not been properly harnessed. The skills of women fade with the passage of time as they are not tapped for production, he said.

Protection of Rights of Elders Act No. 09 of 2000 provides a provision to not discriminate senior citizens purely because of their age, when providing any service, including finances. Nevertheless, financial institutions in Sri Lanka have not taken any interest in providing financial support to needy senior citizens. Instead, banking institutions have mechanisms to obtain deposits from senior citizens while paying only amarginally higher interest rate.

It is time that financial institutions in Sri Lanka focus on the ageing population and create win–win situations.

To achieve these social benefits, HelpAge Sri Lanka (HASL) hopes to team up with LMFPA to invite all MFIs operating in Sri Lanka for an ‘Enabling Dialogue'.

MFIs in Sri Lanka have long years of experience in lending to people other than senior citizens. While discussing the positives and negatives of previous experiences, HASL will to built upon the positives and calls upon MFIs to extend microfinance facilities to senior citizens in rural settings.

 

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