10/05/2010, 00.00
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Elderly at risk of poverty in Sri Lanka

by Melani Manel Perera
They only count for 10% of the population but do not receive adequate health care or pensions. More than 600 people, Sinhalese and Tamils, Buddhists and Muslims celebrate the World Day of the elderly in Colombo. The meeting on 1 October organised by HelpAge Sri Lanka, the only charity association to assist old people across the country.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - In Sri Lanka, life expectancy is 80 years for women and 74 for men. To date, the elderly account for approximately 10% of the population. Despite the low percentage, the elderly are at risk of poverty, with poor health care and pensions. HelpAge Sri Lanka is the only association that for over 25 years has provided assistance to the elderly in different parts of the country. On 1 October in Colombo, on the occasion of World Day of the elderly, the association brought together more than 600 Sinhalese and Tamils, Buddhists and Muslims - all over 60 - who celebrated the day with songs, dances and plays.

Sister Janaki Hettiarachchi, from the convent of the Holy Family, Wennappuwa, who together with other sisters took part in the Day, said that this type of event helps young people understand the value of older people, who for many are still something special. "Young people - she says - looking at these initiatives may start to ask 'how can we help our old people?".

The event was also attended by Felix Perera, Minister of Social Services, who met senior representatives of various districts of the country, including those affected by civil war from Vavaniyawa, Amapa and Batticaloa. Presented with the need for urgent reform of the welfare system, the Minister has pledged his commitment to introducing a new pension scheme for people over 70 years of age and older people who do not have enough income to survive.

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