This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. There are a limited number of tickets left. Don’t miss this unforgettable event! Purchase online or stop by our office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC.
SLOVENIA’S RAPIDLY AGING POPULATION IS DRIVING INTERGENERATIONAL INNOVATION
by Patti Digh
In Slovenia, aging-related expenses as a share of GDP will increase from 24.7% in 2013 to 31.5% in 2060. Out of 100 working age people in Slovenia, 27 were over 65 at the start of 2013, a number that will double to 58 in 2060, according to a recent report. The proportion of the population over 85 is also projected to surge from 2% at the moment to 7% in 2060.
In addition to the systemic reforms obviously needed to finance this rapidly aging population, Slovenia is looking at innovative ways to unite old and young people, using institutions familiar with the needs and abilities of both groups. They aim to tackle the stereotypes young and old people tend to have about each other.
The “Fruits of Society” house is the first example of an intergenerational centre in Slovenia, bringing together young and old in the Pomurje region. The project’s aim is to ensure additional help for the elderly by young people and, at the same time, help youth acquire new knowledge. Activities mainly revolve around socializing, joint projects, and promotion of a healthy lifestyle and voluntary work. The idea is to create a forum where ideas can be exchanged on how to deepen and extend intergenerational voluntary cooperation to other activities.
Traditionally, the elderly in Slovenia have been taken care of by their family members. Those who did not have any relatives were partially taken care of by a local community. However, a recent Slovenian study showed that three quarters of people would choose to go to a nursing home and less than one fifth (17%) would choose to live with one of their children because they don’t want to be a burden. Even so, the willingness of family to care for their elders is very high. Almost two-fifths of Slovenes see the solution as family care and co-living with disabled and elderly family members. Half of the respondents said that for them personally, caring for old people is one of the main tasks of the family. The biggest problem is not the willingness to care but rather the ability to care. Family care is less available due to the lack of support services rather than unwillingness to care.
The first need they have is common to all Slovenian family caregivers – the need for “respite care services” (47.1%) that are very scarce (almost nonexistent) in Slovenia. Two fifths of family caregivers wish to have “more frequent visits from a district nurse” and “larger accessibility of home help services.” The fourth and fifth most expressed things they miss are the “support from their relatives” and “the life they lived before taking over the caring responsibilities.” The needs of family carers reflect the real situation regarding family care of older people in Slovenia.
Currently there are only a few services intended for family caregivers and they are not provided on a national level. For example, there is no place that provides information, practical training in caregiving, and other support to family caregivers on the national level. Family caregivers urgently need broader community support and professional assistance in the form of home care and support, institutional day care, respite care services, needs assessment, counseling and advice, self-support groups, practical training in caring and protecting their own physical and mental health, weekend breaks, integrated planning of care for elderly and families, and so on.
Through one national program, family members are trained via short courses for better understanding and communicating with older family members, or about quality aging after retirement, in which the elderly are taught how to recognize and accept old age, practice active aging, and have quality relations with the younger generations.
Family members who have an elder in an institution learn to communicate well during their visits and to collaborate well with the residential care provider. Relatives’ clubs are being established inside nursing homes. The underlying principle is that one hour weekly of quality personal contact with an old person is an excellent opportunity for personal growth, and a good way to learn about intergenerational communication and prepare for one’s own old age.