Al Qasimi Foundation researchers call for increased public awareness and improved elderly care support as a result of new study

By 2050, people aged 65 years or older will make up 16% of the UAE population[1], calling for the systematic development of a sustainable and effective elderly care system

  

According to the study, most senior Emiratis favor living in their home with family but prefer receiving help from a professionally trained caregiver for a higher level of assistance. 

Ras Al Khaimah: Launching ahead of the International Day for Older Persons, a new study unveiled today by the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research analyzes the community attitudes towards older people and the perceptions and expectations of elderly care.

Although the extended family model is in decline in contrast to the increasing trend of smaller nuclear families, the study reveals that family values, local customs, and the elderly continue to be very important for Emiratis. Over 75% of surveyed Emiratis agreed that senior citizens play a significant role in adding value to society, especially through their knowledge, experiences, and time spent volunteering within their communities. Over 41% of surveyed senior Emiratis say they are involved in community activities or volunteering.

Furthermore, eight in 10 of those surveyed believe society has an obligation to care for the elderly. When it comes to the provision of elderly care, nearly half of the study’s participants believe that family, followed by the government, is most responsible for financially supporting its senior family members. However, the study also revealed that nearly 40% of all respondents believe that Emirati youth are facing high financial costs and may be unable to financially support the older generation in the future.

Hanadi Mohammed, Innovation Manager at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, explained: “Traditionally, the elderly in the UAE have been cared for by their family, consisting of the nuclear and extended family, ensuring their older relatives could continue living independently in their family homes. However, the aging population and rising standards of living are creating financial, social, and medical pressures for UAE families, suggesting some families may no longer be able to meet the needs of their senior relatives in the future.”

Senior Emiratis living at home often require help with shopping, cooking, cleaning, and attending medical appointments, which is currently equally provided by the government (51%) and their families and domestic workers (49%). For higher levels of assistance, such as help with dressing, eating, toileting, and nursing, the survey reveals that the elderly prefer receiving help from a professional caregiver.

In the UAE, senior Emiratis access a range of services through their Emirate’s local entity, yet there are few dedicated residential facilities and limited elderly services, largely provided by local hospitals. Less than a third of surveyed people (32%) know a senior Emirati living in an elderly care facility or hospital, in comparison to 62% who know an older person receiving support in their own home.

Dr. Natasha Ridge, Executive Director at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, said: “We know that the number of senior Emiratis who reside in care facilities is very low. Our study suggests this may be due to the gap in elderly care infrastructure, but also due to the negative perception of life in elderly residential facilities, which is often associated with loneliness, unhappiness, and lack of control, despite having better access to specialized elderly care.” 

Similarly, elderly citizens, who know other seniors living in elderly care facilities, prefer staying in their family homes and report having positive views of their lives at home with their family.

The study also highlights:

  • Nearly five in nine people (56%) have more positive perceptions about elderly care facilities if they have visited one, especially if they know an elderly person living there and visit them weekly.
  • When asked about their choice of elderly care in the future, younger Emiratis prefer receiving support from family and friends as opposed to from private providers.
  • However, those who know an older person are more likely to prefer support from a private provider (61% compared to 50%) and less likely to prefer help from family (56% compared to 61%).

Dr. Natasha Ridge, Executive Director at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, added: “Our research suggests improved aged care infrastructure and specialized training for caregivers and domestic workers will be significant in supporting our senior Emiratis and the next generation of seniors in the UAE. We truly believe in the power of creating community-led initiatives, such as establishing community centers to bring youth and senior citizens together and encouraging youth volunteering, to bring about sustainable social development rooted in the UAE’s values and traditions.” 

In the absence of research on aging in the UAE, the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research has undertaken this study to raise the profile of this critical yet underdeveloped social area, shedding light on the future challenges of elderly care in the UAE with the aim of promoting innovative policy models that will impact positive social change. A report outlining the results of the study and its wider implications will be published later in October.

[1] https://drbarometer.com/docs/default-source/dr-barometer-study-finding-documents/countries/united-arab-emirates/dr-barometer-uae-report.pdf?sfvrsn=bdd66a66_2 

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