International and domestic health experts gathered for a two-day conference in Hanoi to discuss practical way to improve health care services for elderly citizens at a reasonable cost.

According to medical experts, there are more than seven million elderly people in Vietnam, which accounts for ten percent of the population. The nation will become an ageing population in the next couples of years.

This scenario poses big chalenges for the country’s socio-economic environment. The elderly will be in need of health care, but the cost of medical care for older citizens is on average seven times higher than for young people.

Doctor Pham Thang from the National Institute of Gerontology said cancer, Parkinsons, Alzheimers and bone and heart disorders are common diseases among the elderly.

“Elderly people have been known to suffer from several diseases simultaneously. If a disorder goes unnoticed or is misdiagnosed, it is likely that treatment costs will increase, while the quality of the patient’s life decreases,” he said.

The Research Centre for Support of the Elderly’s director Nguyen Ngoc Trai said home healthcare services could provide elderly residents with special assistance at reasonable prices.

Currently, the centre has trained more than 800 staff and provides the services for more than 6,000 sick elderly residents in 11 cities and provinces. A network of more than 2,000 volunteers has been established in 110 communes to support 3,000 elderly residents. “The model is suitable for elderly Vietnamese who wish to be treated with their relatives close by. The most important thing, I think, is that the model can reduce much of their treatment costs,” Trai said.

Representatives agreed that this model would create favorable conditions for health care development. They also noted that health workers should be provided with incentives.

They suggested that curriculum about home healthcare for the aged should be taught at health institutions and universities in order to spread the model.

The conference, organised by the National Institute of Gerontology and the Elderly Association, ended on November 17./.