Issues of dependency and lack of support leave many elderly citizens exposed to mistreatment by those charged with their care.
At 88, Vo Thi Dung, from southern Tien Giang Province, can no longer walk unassisted and suffers from dementia.Bedridden, she is being beaten and slapped by her 57-year-old daughter-in-law.
A few steps away, her son, 56, finally joined in the violence.
In February, a two-minute video of the incident sparked a backlash in the community after it was posted on social media in Vietnam.
This is one of dozens of cases that have been uncovered related to the physical, emotional or psychological abuse of elderly people in Vietnam over the past few years.
Although netizens quickly stepped in to express their anger and grievances at their parents' abusers, many elderly people remain on the margins of society.
According to a recent survey conducted among 600 seniors in three communes in the central provinces of Phu Yen and Quang Tri, along with Dak Lak province in the Central Highlands, 3% of seniors said their children surname, 8.3 percent are threatened with confinement, and 15 percent are abandoned.
Total 33.4 percent maintained they were criticized and scolded often, said the survey conducted by the Institute for Family and Gender Studies (IFGS)
A report by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2013 revealed only 11.6 percent of seniors reported being abused by their children.
No country for old men
According to General Office for Population and Family Planning under the Ministry of Health, the number of people over 60 in Vietnam made up some 11.95% of the country's population in 2017, equivalent to 11 million people.
It is forecasted that by 2029, Vietnam will have about 16 people.5 million elderly people, accounting for 17% of the national population.But up to 70% live without a pension, the office said.
They can face many challenges and depend on their children in their care, leading to dependency problems and personal debt, one of the most common reasons for abuse in the context of rapidly aging population.
Culture also plays an important part in elder abuse.It is believed that Vietnamese people invest all their money in their children's education and future, so when they get old, they can pay off.
Yelling, hitting, abandoning, etc.are increasingly coming to light on social media, as is the case in Tien Giang and Ca Mau provinces.
The elderly exercise in a Hanoi park.Reuters / Damir Sagolj's photo.
Another reason for the mistreatment of senior citizens is the lack of knowledge and skills related to elderly care.
Former Deputy Minister of Health Pham Le Tuan said about 72.3% of elderly Vietnamese are living with their children, but carers still lack knowledge and need strategies to improve their understanding.
In the last few years, many urbanites have hired maids and carers to take care of their parents without the necessary training and experience.
This can lead to cases of elderly people being abused by their caregivers, such as in the case in Soc Trang province in 2018 where the caregiver beat and threw a 90-year-old woman to bed; or a video of a caregiver, also a relative, slapping and pouring milk into the mouth of an elderly woman in Ninh Binh province last year.
According to Ms. Nguyen Thi Lan, the National Committee on the Elderly of Vietnam, even if these cases are exposed, the punishment is still too light to limit abuse.
The report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) affirmed that reporting or even acknowledging cases of elder abuse is taboo in Vietnam because it is considered a private matter in the family.
The Law on the Elderly stipulates that sons, daughters and children must support and take care of their elderly parents or grandparents, mistreating them is against the law and those found can be imprisoned for up to five years.
But the country does not have a hotline to protect the elderly in case of emergencies, nor programs to prepare the younger generation for old age.
According to UNFPA, “Vietnam, like other countries, where aging is a relatively new phenomenon, has not paid much attention to this aspect”.
According to Mr. To Duc, former Deputy Director of the Department of Social Assistance, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the demand for nursing homes is increasing because many Vietnamese work and live far away from elderly relatives.
But “the nursing home system in Vietnam is very weak,” he said.
The country faces a shortage in the supply of nursing homes as its population ages, with government support and private sector investment slow to emerge.
Meanwhile, people like Dung have little more than Hobson's choice to stay with their abused children.
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