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Elderly Care

Italy - Elderly Care


More than 20% of the total Italian population is aged 65 or more. By the year 2050, this figure is expected to rise to 34% because of the country’s longer life expectancy, which is currently at 78 to 80 for men and 84 to 85 for women. In fact, about 20% of the senior citizens and 6% of the country’s total population are over the age of 80. Therefore, Italy definitely needs to focus on its elderly care as well as in-home senior care services.

Unlike the US and UK, when it comes to caring for the elderly in Italy, there is a lot of emphasis on family support. Looking after the older members of the family is regarded as a responsibility or a “social duty”, especially by the women and this also includes taking care of extended family. Normally, Italian institutions and communities only get involved if an elderly person has no family; old age homes are regarded as the “last resort” in Italian culture. Therefore, less than 1% of the senior population is currently using home care services.

However, in the recent past, the demand for elderly homecare services has increased to a great extent; yet, the supply remains fairly limited. Considerable differences can also be seen in the development and distribution of services for the elderly, particularly between the northern and southern parts of the country.

Unfortunately, there are no gated communities only for the elder, as often seen in the US. Elderly people, who are fairly fit and independent live in regular properties, with no special amenities for senior citizens.

Healthcare for the elderly

While the National Health System and the Local Health Authorities in Italy have been controlled by the municipality since 1978, care for the elderly was entrusted to communities and general practitioners that are organized by associations as well as the municipality. In fact, right up until the 1990s, the Italian authorities were oblivious to the health problems and requirements of older people. However, things began to change in 1992 with the “Objective: Ageing Persons”. The National Plan for senior citizens now aims at better coordination of medical and social services, which can be integrated within a person’s home care service system. Their framework for elderly care includes –

Home care: This consists of a service with social importance like personal care, house help, meals, as well as health importance, like medical and nursing care, which can be provided to a senior citizen within the comfort of his own home. Integrated homecare services seek to keep an older person at home for as long as possible.

Day centers: These comprise of a semi-residential structure within a district, where elderly people can spend a couple of hours each day. These centers are operational 5 days per week, 7 hours each day and can admit up to 20 elderly people. They provide not only healthcare services but also many types of social care services, like promotion of personal autonomy, job therapy, entertainment and so on.

Nursing homes: These services include residential structures that have been organized into smaller groups to provide healthcare, social care services and functional rehabilitation for those who are disabled. The support staff in nursing homes generally includes doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologist. Elderly patients staying in nursing homes may receive extensive or intensive care, depending upon their situation.

Extensive care at nursing homes for the elderly comprises of long-term rehabilitation and accommodation though hospitalization is limited to the acute stage only.

Intensive care includes rehabilitation with high medical importance as well as hospice for terminal patience. This service also provides palliative care for patients as well as their families.

Retirement for expats

Italy does not offer any kind of retiree program. In spite of the fact that Italian elderly care is not at par with countries like the US, UK and Canada, several people above the age of 65 choose to retire in Italy. Senior expats living in Italy need to obtain a retirement visa or an elective residency visa.

People who wish to apply for an elective residency visa need to apply in person at the Italian consulate in their home country, prior to leaving. Only those who can provide proof of finances (bank statements, investments, social security, etc), rental agreements or deed for property in Italy and valid medical insurance are granted this visa. This is probably because retiring in Italy can be very expensive for expats.


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