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What the UAE Population Thinks of Aging and Aged Care

Compared to other highly developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and Germany, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) population is young, with a median age of 32.6 years in 20201. By comparison, Germany’s median age was 45.7 years, and Japan’s was 48.4 in the same year. Given these age demographics, public policy in the UAE is currently focused on meeting the needs of youth and working-age individuals below the age of 65, who comprise 98.7% of the total population. 

Going forward, however, the topic of aged care is becoming a matter of concern. In 2020, only 1.6 people older than 65 were dependent on 100 working-aged people in the UAE. By 2050, however, this number will increase to 18.5, a twelve-fold increase, which will create financial, social, and medical pressures for families and the UAE government. As of 2017, official statistics report that there are approximately only 15,000 Emiratis over the age of 60. Accordingly, provisions for aged care in the UAE remain limited. While some emirates have local entities that offer a range of services to Senior Emiratis2, only two residential aged care facilities are exclusively dedicated to the elderly. In the entire country, Senior Emiratis are thus forced to rely on a limited range of services typically provided by local hospitals, with only a few specialized medical staff. 

Therefore, the UAE is not yet prepared to cater to the greater number of older people who will exist in the future. In addition to a lack of physical infrastructure, there are also reportedly changing social dynamics, particularly with regard to the decline of the extended family model and the increasing trend toward smaller nuclear families. This will also impact care for the elderly as currently, the majority are cared for at home by their families or with the assistance of housemaids.

The UAE, therefore, needs to explore and plan for the creation of a sustainable and effective aged care system. In light of the current scarcity of senior care facilities and lack of research on aging in the UAE, the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research has undertaken this study. Its design draws heavily on a study carried out by the Australian Government’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. That study focused on significant issues with aged care services in Australia, including their quality and person-centeredness, and how best to deliver such services to a wide range of people. 

We have modified the Australian survey to explore the following areas in the UAE: (1) population attitudes towards older people, (2) knowledge and perceptions of aged care, and (3) Emiratis’ experiences, expectations, and preferences for older age. This survey was answered by 2,375 individuals, divided between 2,074 Emiratis and 661 non-Emiratis, with 49% of respondents being female and the remaining 51% being male. The findings are discussed in the Strategic Report.

Recommended citation: Almarabta, S., & Ridge, N. (2021). What the UAE population thinks of aging and aged care (Strategic Report No. 5). Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.

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