Nowadays, the elderly is a serious issue around the world; nearly all industrial countries are facing enormous pressure about the coming of aging society. As one of the most advanced countries in the world, how about the situation of elderly in the Netherlands ? Can Dutch society provide the best care to the Baby Boomer?
Aging society, the Netherlands is on the way
“For the Netherlands, the aged society did already make its entrance.” said Mr. Martin Smalbrugge Who is head of the training center for residents in elderly care medicine (GERION) of the Department of Nursing Home Medicine. This is true; in 1990 12.8% of the Dutch population was over 65, while in 2000 this was 13.6 %, which is an increase of 250,000 elderly people. (College, 2003)Obviously, the Netherlands have become an aged society country. Furthermore, the Dutch aging population will increase dramatically in the future, it is expected that the percentage of people of over 65 will increase to 14.8% in 2010 and to 22.9% in 2040. (Elderly)
Aging society causes many challenges for Dutch economic and society. The first challenge is ageing society creates social and political pressures on social support systems, due to dramatic increase in the older retired population relative to the shrinking population of working ages. This would decrease the quantity of labor and investment in the Netherlands, and directly influence the increase of Dutch economy.
The other one is the prevalence of disability, frailty, and chronic diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, etc.) are expected to increase dramatically. As a result, there would be a huge burden for the Dutch society. For example, just the National Care for Elderly Program – Better quality of life for frail elderly persons through better quality of care which is tailored to the needs of the elderly persons, costs 80 million Euros. (The National Care for the Elderly Programme) Such a big amount of money into elderly care is like an invisible hand is impeding the increase of Dutch economy.
Although many challenges in the Netherlands are caused by the aging society, elderly people are not abandoned by society. Actually, The Netherlands is one of the best countries to live for aged people around the world. There are efficient welfare and healthcare systems, high quality medical equipment, and a number of special services for elderly.
How the Netherlands take care of Elderly
The Netherlands has a rounded care and welfare system, this system satisfies the need for care for every citizen, and there are specific aims to different groups. For elderly, the nation policy’s main goal in the National Background Report for The Netherlands is to let people in all circumstances and phases of life were independent and self-reliant as long as possible. It was essential to offer people who need care, such as the elderly, optimum choices and to improve the quality of their life (Knipscheer, 2004).
In order to achieve this goal, the Dutch government has made various efforts to set up an excellent elderly care system since 1900. However, in the early of 20 century It was unfair for aging people who are from lower social class in care and welfare system. For example, during that period it was hard for aging people from lower social class to get better health care, and find new job. In order to solved this problem, former government introduced reforms within the existing system of relief for both the poor and the elderly people which were 1912 Poor Law, and 1913 Old Age Pensions Act (College, 2003).
Nevertheless, now the Netherlands has constructed the best and most effective elderly care and welfare system in the world. The basic elderly care system in the Netherlands is the Traditional Three-Level-System. It includes three levels which are residential homes for the elderly, nursing homes, and extramural care system (as opposed to the intramural care in institutional homes). (Senior citizens, 2011)Besides the Traditional Three-Level-System, Dutch society also developed many new measures to satisfy the increase for the need of elderly care.
For example, ”Umbrella care”, which means ”care given by children, relatives and neighbors” (College, 2003). It is convenient to the huge number of elderly who live alone to get better life. Moreover, according to a research by European Union, 37% of Dutch people younger than 45 prefer their parents to stay and receive visits, this number is just lower than Sweden. (Harbers, 2008) ”Umbrella care” is a perfect project to the elderly who live alone.
Furthermore, comparing with other European countries, the Netherlands is one of the best countries in health care service. Specifically, the Netherlands has a large percentage of aging people are vaccinated against influenza each year.in 2005, this percentage was 75%, and it has the largest influenza vaccination rate in the elderly in the EU. (Harbers, 2008)
In addition, the Netherlands is also the first country that legalized Euthanasia around the world. This gives elderly who are suffering from serious diseases, such as cancer, right to die to get rid of agony from diseases. Even if some people hold the belief that the legalization of euthanasia is inhumane, it gives one option to elderly who get serious diseases and could not live any more to finish their agony. Just like Mr. Martin Smalbrugge said:” If you are very old, or in a very bad condition, I think people should be able to decide for themselves if they want to end their lives or continue.”
Elderly care, still long way for the Netherlands
the Netherlands is definitely an excellent model of elderly’s care and welfare system for other countries in the world to study, whereas for the Netherlands, this is not enough. Many drawbacks still exist in Dutch society for elderly people. On the one hand, like other European countries, due to
the dramatic increase of elderly and economic recession, the situation of Infrastructures for elderly is still rigorous. For example, the Number of hospital beds in the Netherlands is below EU average, it was 438 hospital beds per 10,000 inhabitants. . (Harbers, 2008) This number is continuing decreasing in recent years.
On the other hand, the baby boomers become more major group of elderly gradually, they are healthier and wealthier than former generations, and they need higher service quality. However, consequently there is still some space for Dutch elderly housing care; for example, like Mr. Martin Smalbrugge said that there has to be more staff and he think it would be a good idea to take more care at people at their own houses. People are happier in their own houses, get their own attention.
Not only the Netherlands are facing the challenges of an aging society, but also almost advanced industry countries even some developing countries ,like China have the same problem. The efforts of the Netherlands is not enough to solve this global issue. This problem needs international cooperation, and international cooperate is a good platform for countries to share and study their experience about elderly care system each other. In order to give better life for elderly now and also for ourselves life in the future , we still need to do more!
College, D. V. (2003). Care Work with Older People. Older People in The Netherlands,1,3, 4 5.Ritrived from http://hesotenet.edu.hel.fi/english/etm2/Carework%20with%20older%20people/Netherlands_Elders.pdf
Elderly. (n.d.). Retrieved Feburary 23, 2012, from the Netherlands institute for social research: http://www.scp.nl/english/Topics/A_E/Elderly
Harbers, M. (2008). Dare to Compare! Houten: The National Institute for
Public Health and the Environment.
Harmsen, J. G. (12. July 2011). Elderly people live independently to increasingly older ages. Retrieved feburary 23, 2012 from Satistics Netherlands: http://www.cbs.nl/en-GB/menu/themas/bevolking/publicaties/artikelen/archief/2011/2011-3434-wm.htm
Knipscheer, G. V.-J. (2004). National Background Report. Hamburg.
Senior citizens. (2011, November 15). Retrieved March 13, 2012, from Government of Netherlands: http://www.government.nl/issues/health-issues/senior-citizens
Sittig, H. (8. feburary 2012). “I won’t put my dad in a nursing home”. Retrieved feburary 23, 2012 from radio Netherlands worldwide: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/i-wont-put-my-dad-a-nursing-home
STEVERINK, N. (2001). Ageing and Society 21. the United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
The National Care for the Elderly Programme. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2012, from national programm ounderenzorg: http://www.nationaalprogrammaouderenzorg.nl/english/the-national-care-for-the-elderly-programme/
Zwijnenburg, W. (n.d.). The Netherlands: Government withdrawal from long-term care. Retrieved April 12, 2012, from The MUHC ISAI’s Health Innovation Forum: http://www.healthinnovationforum.org/2009/nov/01/netherlands-government-withdrawal-long-term-care/