There are some 833,000 people above the age of 65 living in Israel today, with this figure expected to double by the year 2035 to 1.64 million, the Israel Gerontological Society said on Sunday.

This dramatic increase stems primarily from prolonged life expectancy, due to the advancement of modern medicine and changes in lifestyle and environment, according to the society.

“This growth is expected to continue in the future and perhaps even enhance considerably, and the demographic, social, economic, and political impact will have an imprint not only on the welfare of the elderly themselves, but also on the economy and society in general,” said Esther Iecovich, associate professor in the department of sociology of health and gerontology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The Gerontological Society said it had presented Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a position paper on the pressing issue and called on him to set up a state committee, comprised of policy-makers, academics, service providers, and representatives of senior citizens, to formulate a national aging policy.

According to Prof. Yitzhak Brick, chairman of the Israel Gerontological Society, many of the elderly today suffer from poverty, illness, physical disability and loneliness, while many more are healthy and independent but require services in the areas of leisure, employment and activities to ensure a meaningful life.

“The position paper presents a warning and calls on them [the government] to design a national program promoting the general welfare of the elderly population in Israel,” said Brick.

The paper, also presented to senior citizens, social services and welfare, and health ministers as well as the chairman of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee suggested that any strategic plan should aim to address the challenges of old age across all areas of life, including health, welfare, pensions, nursing, employment and leisure.

“This phenomenon is part of a worldwide process taking place in both developed and developing countries. Indeed, several countries in the world, such as Singapore, have already begun to develop national master plans designed to cope with the challenges involved in the process. In contrast, the Israeli government has not yet developed a national plan for aging,” said Prof. Iecovich.

According to the Gerontological Society, Israel could learn from the successes and failures of other countries as well as from the guiding policy document created during the United Nations Madrid Conference in 2002 and signed by Israel, which could be used as a road map for the formulation of a national program for aging.

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