Tough Road for the Elderly

Khim Samoeun listened anxiously with her 12-year-old granddaughter as the deputy prime minister and minister of social affairs explained what they could do for her.

With a $7.50 monthly pension, an out-of-work husband and various aches and pains, the 65-year-old woman was especially interested.

“My husband has stomach aches and hemorrhoids; I have aches in my bones,” Khim Samoeun said. “And worse, I haven’t got any pension for September yet.”

Although she is in a particularly difficult situation, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said an improved national economy would be one solution for elderly people like Khim Samoeun.

“It’s true that the pension can’t fulfill your demands, but there will be some more when the government’s budget is increased,” Sar Kheng said Monday during an International Older People Day celebration at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational and Youth Rehabilitation.

According to Ith Sam Heng, chairman of the celebration, the number of retirees and people suffering from disabilities is increasing annually and at present includes 16,532 retirees and 5,619 civil servants. Because of these increases, the district offices of the Department of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training and Youth Rehab­ilitation has been assigned to help expand the budgets for pensioners and advocate for the elderly.

Nagasayee Malathy, country program director for Help Age International, which has set up 45  “associations” in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces, said hundreds of thousands of elderly women are poor and without a husband.

“Many women don’t marry again, and they face old age alone and in poverty and hardship,” Nagasayee Malathy said.

Horn Chhorn, 62, said that although she has a daughter to help provide income for her family of six, she is still mourning the loss of her husband.

“Since he died, I often cry or laugh alone when I hear bad or good news,” Horn Chhorn said.


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