Community Social Infrastructure
A shift toward a nuclear family structure in Turkey is leaving more older adults living independently, but traditional family ties remain strong and continue to enable aging at home. Despite these strong family ties and respect for older adults, negative stereotypes around aging are prevalent in Turkish society. The Turkish government, as well as leading civil societies and non-governmental organizations, have been increasingly focused on cultivating positive perceptions of aging, with the country’s first Active Aging Strategy (2016–2020) expected to come out in 2017.
“In Turkey, older people are traditionally very important to, and valued, by their families. They were typically living with their children or in nearby houses. While the living arrangements in urban areas especially have been changing in recent decades, family relationships remain very strong, particularly in rural areas.”
– Kuzeyhan Ozdemir, Former President of the Turkish Seniors Association
Emphasizing the family’s central role in caring for older adults, the government has also elevated community support, mainly through projects undertaken by municipalities. However, accessibility of physical infrastructure remains an obstacle to older adults’ safe mobility.
The Elderly Support Program (YADES)
To strengthen support for aging in place, the Ministry of Family and Social Policies introduced the Elderly Support Program (YADES) in 2016 to fund projects by municipalities that provide community and home-care services to older adults. The program provides grants up to TRY 1.1 million (approximately USD 350,000) to approved projects. In fiscal year 2016–2017, the government has budgeted TRY 4.125 million (approximately USD 1.3 million) to fund five projects out of a total of 15 proposal submissions in the cities of Sakarya, Kayseri, Trabzon, Kahramanmaras, and Sanliurfa. In Sanliurfa, the municipality is aiming to achieve a range of targets within one year, which include renovating 125 houses that are in poor condition, providing home healthcare services to 600 older adults, delivering food packages to 200 older adults in need, and organizing various cultural and social events.
Almost 100 percent of older adults in Turkey are aging at home – with fewer than 0.5 percent residing in care institutions as of 2015. Nearly 85 percent of those 20 to 54 believe they should take care of their older parents.
Labor Force Participation Rate Age 65 or Older
Normal Pensionable Age
Source: OECD Statistics
In 2015, Akdeniz University, a public university in the city of Antalya, launched the first academic program dedicated to older adults, called “Renewal University.” Targeting people in their 60s or older, the four-year program offers a wide selection of courses, including sociology, psychology, biology, technology, chemistry, agriculture, and medicine. The program is free of charge and assigns no grades. Its goals are to enhance the lives and creativity of the students and to help them stay cognitively healthy. Interest has grown quickly following the program’s trial run in May 2015, with enrollment exceeding 300.
Nearly 75 percent of older workers in Turkey were employed in the agricultural sector as of 2015. Approximately 41 percent of those age 65 or older were illiterate or had not completed elementary school.