Deloitte: Poland enters the phase of economic expansion

The divergence of economic moods in Poland...

Two Years On: War in Ukraine and Its Global Impact

On February 24, 2022, a full-scale Russian...

Aging Society Brings Challenges and Opportunities for Senior Policy

HEALTH & MEDICINEAging Society Brings Challenges and Opportunities for Senior Policy

Currently, there are over 7 million people aged 65 and over in Poland. According to the Central Statistical Office (GUS) projections, by 2050, depending on the scenario, there could be between 9 and nearly 11 million, with all these assuming a significant decrease in the population of Poland. The aging society is a challenge for the entire socio-economic policy. The problem is that this is a very diverse group with varying needs: from professionally active seniors to independent individuals requiring specialized care. The need for economic and health security is common to all of them.

“Demography is inevitable. It indicates that we are already a society that is aging, and in a few years, we will be a society of old people. This aging process is taking place in many European countries because it is simply associated with people living longer. But in our case, it is exceptionally dynamic and combined with low fertility,” says Elżbieta Ostrowska, chairwoman of the Polish Association of Pensioners, Retirees and Disabled.

The GUS report “The Situation of Elderly People in Poland” indicates that the share of elderly people in Poland’s population has been increasing since 2006. They made up 17.2% in 2005, and by 2022, nearly 26%. The decrease in population overall and the increase in the elderly population contribute to the rising index of demographic burden by the elderly (the number of people aged 65+ per 100 people aged 15 to 64). The index was at 29.9 in 2022, compared to around 19 in the years 2005-2010.

“There will always be a certain generational gap, which means a greater burden on people who are working, as there may come a time when they will have to work for their children and their old, dependent parents. This is a challenge that the senior policy must address,” evaluates Elżbieta Ostrowska.

Resources of the working-age population are gradually dwindling. According to ZUS calculations, in 2023, there were about 390 people of post-working age per 1,000 people of working age. In 2061, it will be 806 people, and in 2080 – 839 people. Demographic changes necessitate the introduction of systemic solutions in senior policy. Therefore, the newly appointed Ministry of Senior Policy, headed by Marzena Okła-Drewnowicz, is dealing with senior matters.

“Senior policy is a basic challenge that is currently facing the new minister. It is associated with the aging of society, moreover, with double aging, i.e., the increase in the number of people of advanced old age. This is associated with multimorbidity and loss of efficiency. These people are usually cared for by relatives because systemic solutions are insufficient,” convinces the chairwoman of the Polish Association of Pensioners, Retirees, and Disabled.

In old age, the risk of diseases increases, as well as the loss of efficiency and difficulties in daily functioning. Even one-third of people aged 65+ have difficulty performing tasks related to basic self-service (GUS report “Population aged 60+. Demographic Structure and Health”). In the case of more complex tasks, the need for help is much greater.

Although currently the elderly are most often cared for by the family – children and grandchildren, with society aging at an increasingly rapid pace, specialized care for the elderly will be necessary. A step in the right direction is providing paid neighborly services, although the needs are much greater.

“Creating opportunities to support older people losing their independence and their caregivers is one of the first challenges facing senior policy today,” says Elżbieta Ostrowska.

The new government, during the election campaign, promised not only to maintain the 13th and 14th pensions but also to introduce new benefits, including widows’ pensions. Currently, when a senior loses a spouse, he can benefit from a family pension amounting to 85%, or keep his retirement benefit. In the new solution, widows will be able to choose whether they want to stick to 100% of their benefit and add 50% of the family pension after the deceased spouse, or fully benefit from the family pension and keep 50% of their own benefit. This is particularly important as nearly 4% of seniors live in extreme poverty.

“However, the problem of senior policy is that it must respond to very different needs, that is, both still active seniors who would like to continue their professional work and actively participate in social life, as well as those losing health, requiring support and care,” observes the expert. “I also think that some things are common to all groups of older people. It comes down to the need to ensure economic security, health security, personal security, and protection against various forms of violence. There is also a great need for all older people, regardless of age and health status – the need for dignity, respect, a sense of being fellow citizens.”

This also makes seniors and senior organizations want to actively participate in creating social policy that meets the needs of this group.

“Senior organizations have a very big role to play, and it’s manifold. First of all, they should be a signaler of needs raised by older people, communicating and formulating these needs to authorities, whether central or local. Second, remember that senior organizations are a place where older people find the opportunity to pursue various passions, interests, make friends, human relationships, that is what we especially need in old age,” says Elżbieta Ostrowska. “In this role, no one can replace senior organizations.”

Examples include Third Age Universities – the total number of listeners in the academic year 2021/2022 was 86.6 thousand, with the largest group of participants being seniors aged 70-79. In 2022, public libraries recorded 888.8 thousand readers over the age of 60, or 7.6% more than the previous year. The number of seniors using the cultural offer of cultural centers, houses and cultural centers, and clubs and community centers is also increasing.

As shown in the Caritas report “Seniors present?”, an important role of senior organizations is also motivating political life entities not only to present proposals in the area of support for elderly people but also to develop them or give them a specific shape. Today, senior policy – in dimensions other than retirement – is outside the so-called mainstream of public debate, although more and more new ideas concerning this group appear in the programs of practically all groupings, for example, during elections. Although over the past few decades there has been continuous development in senior policy, it is quite slow. For example, the lack of this issue in inter-party competition causes it to be on the back burner of the public agenda, and public actions for the elderly are maintained rather than developed (this can be seen, for example, in the budgets of programs for this group).

Check out our other content
Related Articles
The Latest Articles