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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

New UAE policy makes senior Emiratis feel 'appreciated' 

Emiratis say they are pleased to no longer be humiliated by the term 'elderly'

Senior Emirati men meet in Sharjah's 'elderly majlis' every weekday where they play board games and catch up on news. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Senior Emirati men meet in Sharjah's 'elderly majlis' every weekday where they play board games and catch up on news. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Retired Emiratis say a new policy that offers them greater protection and replaces the term “elderly” with “senior citizens” makes them feel respected and appreciated.

The National Policy for Senior Citizens provides senior Emiratis with special health insurance, modified homes, training in modern skills and discounts for services, but many say they are happiest about the new terminology.

“You don’t know how humiliating and offensive it is to be labelled as elderly,” said Ali Al Qasier, a Sharjah resident in his seventies.

“What we want is to feel that we are appreciated and not neglected, and such small things as changing the names makes us feel respected. We don’t need money. What we want is peace of mind and to be cared for.”

Mr Al Qasier spends his weekdays with dozens of his friends at a coffee shop, which they call “the elderly majlis”, where they play board games and catch up on news.

“It was all we could talk about today,” he said. “Many of us are energetic and give back to society.”

The policy has been years in the making, said Azza Sulaiman, a member of the Federal National Council.

“Since I first joined the National Council, this issue has been a priority because of the importance of senior citizens,” Ms Sulaiman said.

“We want service to be streamlined across all Emirates and this is the UAE’s vision, and there is co-ordination between local and federal government and the private sector.”

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Read more:

UAE Cabinet issues new policy to protect senior citizens

'Don't forget us': UAE's elder citizens yearn for the chance to remain part of the community

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On Sunday, senior Emiratis in the Northern Emirates said the promise of health insurance was a relief because their pensions do not cover their medical bills. But many said the insurance should also include home treatment.

“My grandmother is over 90,” said Abu Mohammed, 45, from Abu Dhabi. “When I applied for home care, my request was denied. They said that they only supply nurses to patients on ventilators.

“I hope the new policy looks into that. We are tired of having to resort to domestic helpers to take on the role of a nurse.”

Home visits are particularly important for most Emiratis because checking their parents or grandparents into a retirement home is not culturally acceptable.

“We have moving clinics in Sharjah and that is one the most important initiatives,” Mr Al Qasier said. “What we need is more home visits by medical staff and nurses rather than a permanent nurse.

“This is already available in Sharjah and I have a regular nurse who comes to visit and does the necessary tests.”

In the UAE, a senior citizen is defined as a person aged 60 and over.

“The majority of the elderly are retired civil servants,” said Salem Obeid, 63, from Ajman.

When asked about the “modern skills” training scheme for retired Emiratis, Mr Obeid laughed.

“We should be the ones doing the training, not the ones trained,” he said. “Many of the elderly they are talking about are educated professionals so instead of putting everyone over 60 under one category, why not look into the needs of every segment instead?”

Mr Obeid said he would like special consideration made for senior Emiratis, such as VAT exemption and easing of restrictions on bank loans.

“We want our pensions increased and be equal to all retirees, whether they have retired today or 10 years ago.”