Only 5.32 percent of Vietnam's elderly are in good health, the Centre for Ageing Support and Community Development has reported.

Health care for the elderly is one of the key targets under the National Programme for the Elderly 2011-15.

A pilot model of health consultation for the aged population is being implemented by Hoa Thuong Commune's Elderly Association in the northern province of Thai Nguyen.

Association Chairwoman Nguyen Thanh Thuy said after one year of operation, the model has helped local elderly people - mainly farmers - to understand symptoms and prevention of high and low blood pressure and heart disease.

The association's survey figures show about 95 percent of local elderly suffer from chronic diseases, including 54 percent registering bone and joint problems and 46.1 percent having contracted respiratory diseases.

"The association informs elderly people about blood pressure, diabetes and heart issues and instructs them to eat healthily to prevent disease," Thuy said.

The association has also launched a programme for young volunteer care givers to visit the elderly at home.

This is one of many pilot programmes that are set up and funded by the Vietnam National Committee on Ageing.

Despite initial success, a lack of infrastructure, funding and human resources to operate the programme effectively have been blamed for difficulties the association has faced.

Ten medical staff including one doctor in the commune's medical centre have gone out of their way to monitor the health of more than 1,100 elderly and nearly 11,000 local people.

The Vietnam Elderly Association and civil society organisations have found some solutions to improve the programme, a Vietnam Association of the Elderly spokesperson said.

If successful, the programme is expected to be endorsed nation-wide as part of a plan to pay more attention to the health of the elderly, who now account for 10 percent of the national population, he said.

Figures from the General Statistics Office show the number of elderly will grow to 16.8 percent of the national population by 2029.

Up to 70 percent of the elderly now have little or no savings and only 20 percent receive a pension or social welfare, with 73 percent of the aged population living in rural areas.

Le Van Nhan, from the Vietnam Association of the Elderly said, "it's time to pay more attentions to the elderly," adding that very few programmes for the elderly had been set up and only half of the nation's elderly have health insurance cards.

The Vietnam Association of the Elderly has co-operated with the Vietnam National Committee for the Elderly to compile documents to form and implement nation-wide aged-care policies, said association representative Pham Tuyet Nhung.

In a related move, the association responded to the International Day of Older Persons on October 1 by calling on civil organisations to do more to help older people access social and medical services./.