UAE drafts new law to protect elderly

A law to protect elderly people is being drafted by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

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DUBAI // A federal law to protect the elderly concerning medical insurance, negligence and abuse is to be drafted.

The new legislation will be designed to iron out differences in elderly care across the seven emirates and could also review the retirement age.

“We need to draft policies which specifically target the elderly,” Mariam Al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs, said yesterday. “We want to systemise our approach – there is a lack of legislation which needs to be addressed.

“Currently there are different bodies working with the elderly and each one has its own approach but there is no single binding law.”

Elderly people – defined by the ministry as anyone older than 60 – are thought to make up just more than 4 per cent of the 1.1 million Emiratis in the UAE. However, the ministry estimates that figure will grow to 6 per cent by 2017 and to 11 per cent in 2032.

“The future generation of elderly people will be different, they will be more educated and healthier and they will be able to be more active players in society,” continued Ms Al Roumi.

The new legislation will be introduced as part of a national plan for the elderly, which the ministry hopes to implement from 2014 and is pending cabinet approval.

“There is the gap in protection,” agreed Mariam Al Hammadi, director of elderly care at the Community Development Authority.

“For instance if an elderly person is being subjected to negligence at home we have no powers to intervene. There is no law which gives us the right to enter the house and intervene and help the older person.

“This new legislation will address such gaps and help in unifying regulations and efforts across the country.”

A ministry study comparing the UAE’s services to those in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Lebanon and Kuwait found the UAE provided either limited or very limited services in several areas.

These areas included in-house care, specialised medical care and rehabilitation, prioritising elderly services and investment saving funds for the elderly. It also found a limited number of elderly homes. There are only three public homes for the elderly – one in Dubai, one in Ajman and one in Sharjah. Only elderly people with no living relatives are eligible.