B.4    
 
Population aged 65 years and older    
 

This is the second map dealing with the population structure by age, however this map, Map B.4, deals with the elderly. In many developing countries large numbers of children ensure the survival of the old and so substitute for old-age pension systems. According to Lao tradition the youngest daughter is responsible for the care of the parents when they get old. In this map people aged 65 years and older have been divided into 5 percentage bands, from the lowest of less than 1.5% and up to more than 7.5% of elderly people. Map B.3 dealing with children of 5 years and below shows the lowest percentage at less than 9%, and the highest of over 25%. In contrast the highest percentage of people aged 65 years and over is only more than 7.5%.

The range of percentages chosen reflects the smaller number of old people compared to the young and is an indication of the low life expectancy. In 2005 the life expectancy of Lao women was 63 years and that of men 59 years. The small number of the population aged 65 years and over may be an indication of the number of older people unable to feed themselves or earn their own income. The magnitude of the percentage of older adults directly affects the dependency ratio (see also Map B.5).

Looking at Map B.4 it is evident that the percentage of people aged 65 years and over is spread quite uniformly over the country varying between 1.5% and 5.5% shown by the quite uniform background colour. However there are many areas where this percentage of older people is higher - in the range of 3.5-5.5 % or even as high as 7.5%. Such areas are scattered in the south (in the provinces of Attapeu and Sekong) and in the northeast of Savannakhet. The percentage of old people exceeds 7.5% in the southwest of Xayaboury, around Phonsavanh and in Phongsaly town and province. High rates may be related to better access to health services which are generally better in urban regions or near the border with Thailand. It is difficult to say how much past military action, unexploded ordnance, the impact of malaria and tuberculosis, scarcity of food and health care have influenced the lower rates in the mountainous regions and in the hills along the former Ho Chi Minh trail.

To summarise, in the Lao PDR the percentage of the population aged 65 years and older is relatively high in some parts of the high mountainous regions while it is low in the flatlands. It is not known whether the scatter of the higher ratios observed reflects the tradition of the more intensive care in the rural areas or if in the urban areas the access to health care keeps more old people alive. As everywhere, the experience of old people and their ability to perform minor chores is an asset to the strength of traditional family relations and the ability to cope with emergencies in a subsistence economy.

 

 

 


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