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In Montenegro, the population is getting older, more space is being sought in homes

For the last decade and a half, Montenegro has been building homes, but it is far behind European countries of a similar size. The human rights of the elderly today represent the human rights of us tomorrow, says Anđela Lalatović, director of the Home for the Elderly in Nikšić

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Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Although it hasn't even opened yet, the Old People's Home in the capital is already small enough to accommodate everyone who expressed an interest in being there.

Due to the decrease in the birth rate and the increase in life expectancy, Montenegro is becoming a country with a large proportion of elderly people who, according to United Nations (UN) forecasts, will make up more than a third of the Montenegrin population by the end of the century. In the last five years alone, the number of elderly people in the country has increased by almost 10.000.

This is a big pressure on the pension system, especially considering that the ratio of pensioners to employees is below the minimum of 1:3, so the missing funds are provided from the budget.

Although there are strategies and sectoral analyzes that deal with the position of people over 65 years old, since the beginning of the year, for example, 13 day care centers have not been working, and a significant part of the support has been taken over by domestic and international non-governmental organizations.

Exactly 75 years ago, the first home for the elderly was opened in Montenegro - "Grabovac" in Risno. It took a full 63 years for it to not be the only one, when a home was opened in Bijelo Polje in 2010, and in Pljevlja eight years later. Homes in Podgorica and Nikšić are expected to open soon, and a tender has been announced for the construction of one in Plav. When Plavski is also completed, the capacity will be around 1.100 places in six dormitories.

Home of the old Grabovac
Home of the old Grabovacphoto:

The Directorate for Statistics (MONSTAT) does not have official data on the number of places in such homes, but data from the European Statistical Office (EUROSTAT) show that member countries with similar populations, such as Luxembourg and Malta, are far ahead of Montenegro with a capacity of 7.200, i.e. around 6.500 seats.

The House in Risno said that 95 percent of their capacity is filled, the occupancy of Bjelopolje is 80, and it is already "tight" in Podgorica.

Head of the Department for Social Work at the Old People's Home in Podgorica Dragana Pešić she said that the number of people interested in the complex on Ćemovsko polje along Bulevar Veljko Vlahovića exceeds the current 274 places. Currently, the government's greatest interest is in the departments of geriatrics and dementia, so these will be the first two departments to be put into operation. After that, the department for palliative care will be opened.

Pešić adds that at the moment it is not possible to say precisely when the home will be opened, but that "all employees have undergone appropriate training and gained practice in existing homes in order to welcome the first users as readily as possible, and the necessary equipment purchases for the provision of services have been made." .

Dragana Pešić
Dragana Pešićphoto: Private archive

"Judging by the number of interested people who contact us every day, awareness has changed a lot when it comes to the accommodation and life of the elderly in homes for the elderly. Previously, many people were of the opinion that it was a shame and carelessness of the family if they placed an elderly person in a home. Family members would experienced condemnation from the environment, while the elderly perceived residential accommodation as isolation and associated it with a feeling of abandonment. Now, elderly people contact us more often personally, with the desire to stay in a home, because they want to improve their quality of life and increase social interactions," Pešić points out, stating that they are aware that in one place they can get a complete health and social care service, and many activities that can enrich their lives.

He also adds that the concept of the home's functioning has changed in recent decades, that it is more and more open and strives for a greater degree of user involvement in the community.

Beneficiaries are accommodated in a home through centers for social work, but they can do so by directly contracting the service directly with the institution. The price of accommodation in the home is defined based on the condition and needs of the user on a daily basis, as well as current prices and costs of living.

Home for the elderly in Podgorica
Home for the elderly in Podgoricaphoto:

The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MRSS) said for CIN-CG that the prices in state homes range from 200 to 450 euros, and that citizens also have two private homes at their disposal.

The homes are not intended exclusively for Montenegrin citizens, but there is a possibility that foreign citizens can be accommodated in them, if they have personal documents for foreigners with permanent residence in Montenegro.

"Persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia stay in our institution," the Bjelopolje institution told CIN-CG.

Director of the Home for the Elderly in Nikšić Anđela Lalatović says that "the human rights of the elderly today represent the human rights of us tomorrow".

Although this home is not yet open either, Lalatović points out that over the past year, about 100 interested users have applied for accommodation in the complex near the Trebjesa Forest Park, and there are 208 places available for them.

Anđela Lalatović
Anđela Lalatovićphoto: Svetlana Mandić

Among those interested are the people of Nikšić who are accommodated in homes in other Montenegrin cities.

Lalatović, who is a social worker by profession, points out that caring for the elderly is not only the task of the family and that the social community should take on more and more responsibility.

"In Montenegro, interest in homes is growing, but despite that there are prejudices such as 'what will someone say'. We must work on forming a positive attitude towards institutional housing for the elderly, as well as on the elimination of existing prejudices," Lalatović told CIN- CG.

She points out that the current lifestyle and pace often do not allow the family to take care of the elderly, as in the past, so society should do everything to afford a dignified and beautiful old age. The greatest advantage of the homes is the constant care and medical assistance that the family usually cannot provide.

Through the project implemented by the Ministry with the technical support of UNDP, the functioning of 13 day care centers for the elderly throughout Montenegro was ensured, however, all the centers were closed, although no large funds were needed for the work.

"On an annual level, the financing of this community life support service amounted to about 190.000 euros. As of January 1, the day care centers stopped working, and the Ministry will try to re-establish this service in cooperation with UNDP," said the department. of work and social care at the end of June.

retired people
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The Red Cross of Montenegro (CKCG) told CIN-CG that their research showed that the biggest problems faced by the elderly are loneliness, poverty and poor health.

They also point out that the capacities for social protection of the elderly are very low, especially for those who need social services and long-term care.

The coronavirus pandemic not only revealed the extremely difficult situation of the elderly in Montenegro, but also pointed to the community's capacities when it comes to supporting the elderly.

"The community had an extremely important role in the sense that they visited their elderly neighbors, made purchases for them and informed the health and social services when there was a need for additional support. CKCG reached the most vulnerable thanks to information from these people," said CKCG, emphasizing the importance of reducing discrimination against the elderly.

The CKCG points out that for the first time in Montenegro, an innovative program to slow down dementia is being implemented. With the support of volunteers, the elderly will solve a series of tasks through an application on a tablet device, such as answering questions, paying attention, filling in the picture with missing parts, etc. CKCG will provide the tablets needed for this service as well as volunteer support.

CKCG as a licensed home help service provider in cooperation with the Ministry provides support for 861 users from 14 municipalities in the central and northern regions. The service in this program is provided by 87 geronto-housewives. In addition to this program, the home help service is also provided by the municipal organizations of the CKCG in Budva, Tivat and Bar, where the service is financed by the municipalities.

As part of the project "Strengthening the resilience of the elderly and persons with disabilities" in five cities (Podgorica, Budva, Nikšić and Bijelo Polje), self-help groups for the elderly are also being organized.

One of the goals of the non-governmental association "Naše doba" is to encourage senior citizens to engage themselves in order to contribute to solving the issues of their generation and improving the quality of life.

Isolation during the epidemic showed how important electronic communication is for the elderly, especially the use of e-services, and how much it contributes to social inclusion, increasing the quality of life and the ability of the elderly to live independently. Secretary General Vesna Lakuš she told CIN-CG that during the protection measures, they published, for example, video instructions, step-by-step adapted for the elderly, for using the e-health service.

Emphasizing that the elderly are a resource and not a burden to society, Lakuš cited several examples, such as their members holding workshops and teaching English to children. Their member, an academic painter, held a painting and sculpting workshop for visually impaired high school students at the Resource Center, another assisted in conducting remedial classes for students in primary school, and occasionally joins in the maintenance of the Mediterranean Garden in Gorica.

When asked by the CIN-CG how their position in society can be improved, Lakuš states that the demographic changes we are facing now, which will follow the development of Montenegro even more in the future, require the harmonization of development policies in all segments of life - in health care , social protection, employment, education, culture, communications, citizen participation in decision-making, etc. Laws in all areas should treat elderly people in a special way, where, she states, it is necessary to distinguish between "elderly persons" and "elderly infirm persons".

old people, pensioner, old, oldest man
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Among her recommendations is, among other things, to ensure preferential or free transportation for the elderly, to hold workshops for the acquisition of new knowledge and skills such as foreign languages ​​and old crafts.

"There are universities for the third age in the surrounding countries. There is still much more in developed societies, so if we don't know, let's look at what others are doing," she says.

There is almost no talk at all about the work engagement of older people, despite their desire to contribute to society. When asked where he sees room to improve the position of elderly people in this area, Lakuš says that "elderly people are no longer ready to work a full day, but they can be useful in the tasks of supervision, control, checking of various studies, projects, conclusions..."

"New communication technologies make it possible to work from home and at a distance, so that also favors the elderly to engage in work. It could also be that two or more elderly people cover one workplace and take turns according to their capabilities," said the CIN-CG interlocutor. , adding that employers will be more open to hiring older workers if they have some concessions.

She explains that at NVU they meet older people in better health who would be happy to help others.

"It should be borne in mind that older people contribute significantly to the community by taking on its task for free and partially recompense the community in cases where, in the role of grandparents, they take care of children. Either as informal caregivers they take care of a sick or dependent family member or to someone from the environment," emphasized Lakuš.

The problem for this population is poverty and low pensions, especially now that the inflation rate has reached 13,5 percent, according to the data of the Directorate for Statistics of Montenegro.

According to the latest data from the Pension and Disability Insurance Fund (PIO), more than 162,5 citizens receive the lowest pension of less than 16.000 euros. The average pension in June was EUR 328,7, and the number of pensioners whose incomes ranged from the minimum to the average pension was 45.475. The Government announced an increase in pensions for September, as well as emergency aid.

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The PIO Fund told CIN-CG that the sustainability of the pension system depends to the greatest extent on the ratio of the number of employees and pensioners, that is, the number of contributors and beneficiaries of rights that are financed from those contributions. The dependency ratio, which shows the relationship between employees and pensioners, is currently 1:2,04, which means that for the payment of one pensioner's pension, 2,04 employees pay contributions. Although it is considered that the optimal ratio is 1:5, and the minimum ratio is 1:3, these ratios are difficult to achieve even in the most economically developed countries of Europe, the Fund said.

The fund is predominantly financed from source revenues from contributions for pension and disability insurance and other source revenues, while the missing funds are provided from general budget revenues. Since the beginning of the year, 25,5 percent of expenses for the payment of rights from pension and disability insurance have been secured from the budget.

"It is important to note that the state is the guarantor of the payment of pensions, and the regularity of the payment cannot be questioned, precisely because of the fact that all missing funds are provided from the state budget," the PIO Fund told CIN-CG.

The issue of the position of the elderly is in the focus of the European Commission, within chapter 19 Social policy and employment. In the latest report of the EC, it is pointed out that the results of the implementation of the Government Strategy for the development of the social protection system for the elderly for the period 2018 to 2022 cannot be measured due to insufficiently adequate control and reporting mechanisms.

The European Commission should soon adopt the European Strategy on Care, and last year it presented the Green Paper on Aging. It is clear that it will take a long time for Montenegro to adapt to the movements in the EU, but it is of great importance to work not only on improving the position of the elderly, but also to use the knowledge and resources of this increasingly numerous population.

Women in a disadvantaged position

The social position of the elderly is determined by a number of factors such as the level of income, housing conditions, available social and health care services, opportunities for participation and contribution in the community, but also the relationship that society has in relation to the elderly.

For example, the social position of the elderly differs depending on the place of residence. One cannot talk about the equal position of the elderly who live in remote rural areas and those who live in the city. "Life in the countryside has many challenges. Support services are often not available, the nearest shops and institutions are in the city, there is no local transport, so life without the help of relatives is extremely difficult. This is especially for the elderly who do not have the basic conditions for life - the issue of water and electricity is not regulated, they have not exercised their right to a pension - and because of their health condition they depend on the help of others in carrying out their daily activities", said the head of the social work service of the Podgorica Home for the Elderly. Dragana Pešić.

retired people
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We can also talk about the gender dimension of the social position of the elderly, because in practice one gets the impression that women, whose life expectancy is longer, are in a less favorable position compared to men, and Pešić states that very often it is about housewives, who did not work, alone they have no income, and family pensions are low.

Support services for the elderly are not equally developed in all municipalities, nor sufficiently coordinated with the needs of this target group. While in some municipalities we have diversity and better availability of services, in other municipalities this is absent.

"The development of services at the local level should be introduced as an obligation, not as an option given to municipalities and which depends on the financial circumstances of each municipality," she stated.

Also, when talking about the social position, the degree of involvement in the community and society after retirement and the attitude towards those people should be mentioned.

The decision-makers recognized the need for additional policies aimed at members of the third age, in order to improve their status through appropriate support services at the state and local level.

The north is aging faster

In relation to the number of inhabitants, since 2017, the number of people aged 65 and over in Montenegro has increased from 89,7 to 98,7 thousand, according to EUROSTAT data.

Data on the age structure of municipalities show that there are two groups in which the share of the population over 65 is high and far higher than the national level. The first group of extremely old municipalities, according to the percentage of citizens over 65 years old from the Ministry's sectoral analysis, includes four municipalities in the northern region - Plužine (29%), Šavnik (27,5%), Žabljak (26,3%) and Pljevlja (24,5 .75%). These are also municipalities with a particularly high proportion of elderly citizens over XNUMX years of age.

In the second group of municipalities with a high percentage of senior citizens above the national average are Andrijevica, Kolašin, Cetinje, Herceg Novi and Kotor, in which the share of senior citizens over 65 is around 22 percent.

"In the north of the country, the aging of the population is most pronounced and the percentage of older citizens is the highest. The above data on the age structure of municipalities point to the obligation to further develop approaches to support the elderly and especially services in the social protection system intended for the elderly," according to the sector analysis of the Ministry, which was published earlier this year.

In recent years, the growth of life expectancy has slowed. This can be explained in part by health challenges that disproportionately affect the elderly population, including the 2014-205 influenza epidemic. and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic. The OSCE has data that in 21 member states, 93 percent of deaths from covid were among people aged 60 or older.

Societies in Europe are getting older and more and more attention is being paid to these categories of the population. Long-term financing of care for the elderly in Western Europe mainly goes through institutions. Except Great Britain, where three times more money from the budget for the elderly is set aside for care at home. Formal care at home is funded more in Western Europe than in the new EU member states.

When it comes to institutional care, the number of beds in hospitals and nursing homes has decreased in Sweden, where this type of support is increasingly provided at home. In Iceland, on the other hand, the decline in hospital beds is accompanied by growth in nursing homes. There is a similar trend in Germany.

photo: CIN-CG

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