May 7, 2010

TURKEY: Caring for the Elderly in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey / TurkeyCentral / Life & Culture / May 7, 2010

By Mehmet Birbiri

Turkish families typically take care of their elderly as respected members of the family.

Question: My turkish friend asked me where my mother was the other day and I told her she was in a nursing home. After explaining what this type of institution was, my friend was shocked that I would do that to my family. Does Turkey not have such facilities?

Answer: As you might have noticed, ties are very strong among members of Turkish families. Children, boys and girls, usually continue to live with their parents regardless of their age, until they get married. The elderly also live with one of their children. Turks show great respect to their elders. Sending an elder parent to a nursing home is not a common practice in Turkey.

Traditionally, Turks believe that treating the elderly well is a must. If we don't respect our elders and treat them well, how can we expect respect and good treatment for ourselves from our own grandchildren?

If an elder is not taken care of by his or her children, then neighbors and the community often take care of them. People over age 65 who have no income at all are paid a monthly salary by the state. They are also treated free of charge at state hospitals. Also, Turkish Airlines, the railroads and many other organizations apply reduced prices for the elderly.

On the other hand, we have nursing homes in Turkey, similar to the ones in the United States. We don't have that many and not in every city. These homes are run by the State. Some elderly people go voluntarily to these nursing homes. Most of the big cities have nursing homes as well. Those homes are run by municipalities and many volunteers work there, and companies sponsor or support those nursing homes. The poor elderly who have no income and no relatives are accepted into these nursing homes.

There is a retirement program in Turkey as well. Men used to work for 25 years and women work for 20 years before becoming eligible for retirement.

Now, according to a law passed recently, depending on the time you have worked, you must reach a certain age before becoming eligible for retirement. There are three retirement institutions in Turkey, one for government employees, one for regular workers, and one for the self-employed. Workers don't have to work all those years at the same place to become eligible for retirement. Deductions made for retirement are deposited to the Social Insurance Organization (SSK) in the workers' name.

As well as retirement, SSK is also in charge of the medical insurance of the workers. Parents and children of the workers are also eligible to be treated free of charge at those SSK hospitals. [rc]

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