The biggest strategic plan for improving the quality of life of senior citizens in Israel was launched this week in Gush Etzion. The official launch of the senior citizens reform program was attended by Deputy Minister of Pensioner Affairs Dr. Leah Nass (Likud), the Director-General of the Pensioner Affairs Ministry Aharon Azoulay and the head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Davidi Perl.
The senior citizens reform program will fundamentally change local authorities’ perception of the country's senior citizens. Until now, senior citizens were seen as a burden on the budget, on the health system and on the country’s social services. The reform will see senior citizens being recognized as human capital that can make a significant contribution to Israeli society.
During 2012, the reform program will be implemented in 100 local authorities throughout Israel, and will be implemented in all of Israel by 2014. In the first stage, each municipality will build a profile which maps the situation of its senior citizens in all walks of life. The second stage involves formulating a strategic plan to use their skills by a round table of experts. The full plan will be presented at the conclusion of the first year of the project and will immediately be implemented for a period of 15 years.
Speaking during the launch of the reform in Gush Etzion, Nass said, “Thanks to developments in medicine and in technologies, life expectancy in Israel rose by almost nine years during the last 30 years. The expectation is that the number of senior citizens will double by 2030. The purpose of the reform is to give local authorities the tools to prepare for the anticipated growth, improve the quality of life and, most importantly, maximize the potential of this population, so that its members can lead an active and vital life, while making a significant contribution to the community in which they live.”
During her visit, Deputy Minister Nass also referred to the Levy Report, which concluded that from a historical and legal perspective, the international law against “occupation” does not apply to Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron), meaning that Israel cannot be considered an "occupier."
“We welcome the conclusions of the report authored by Judge Edmond Levy and which offer a solution to the issue of construction in Judea and Samaria,” said Nass. “I hope that his conclusions will be brought up for a serious discussion at the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs, and that they will be adopted as official policy of the Israeli government.”
The head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Davidi Perl, who also spoke at the launch, said, “We are pleased to welcome Dr. Leah Nass and take part in the new program. As the head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, I act to promote any activity that integrates our senior citizens in various fields. It is thanks to them that we are here in Gush Etzion and in the entire settlement enterprise.
"Senior citizens are a unique asset and we need to plan for and encourage their continuing to benefit us with their skills and knowledge. We are currently working to promote a unique initiative known as 'housing support', which is designed to allow the senior citizen to live in his home and remain in surroundings that are familiar to him and, if necessary, receive support and assistance.”
There are some 450 senior citizens over the age of 65 residing in the Gush Etzion Regional Council, comprising 2.9 percent of the population. 350 residents are entitled to an old age pension, and 70 residents are entitled to an old age pension with income support.