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Jeju, a paradise island of longer life or aging land of dementia?
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승인 2017.09.21  17:25:34
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South Korea is now expected to face a ‘population cliff’ due to the low birthrate on the one hand, and the 100-age era that is coming faster than ever on the other hand.

In the case of Jeju, overall it has barely entered the elderly society. The latest statistics from April 2017 shows that the percentage of elderly people aged over 65 in Jeju is 14.0 percent. While rural areas of Jeju have already entered the stage of being a super elderly society, by around 2025, Jeju as a whole is highly likely to become a super elderly society

Historically and culturally, Jeju is well-known as a paradise island where people have a longer lifespan than other parts of Korea.

All images designed by Jung Young Suk, The Jeju Weekly

It is difficult to pinpoint which particular elements lead to the longevity of people living on the island, but some experts see a variety of factors as having an effect. These include Jeju’s natural environment, clean air, water, dietary habits, way of living, labor culture, social relationship,etc.

According to the statistics, in 2016, 10. 2 percent of Jeju’s population were aged over 85. This is the highest rate in Korea. In particular, there are 231 persons aged over 100 in Jeju, most of whom are concentrated along the north-western regions of Jeju such as Aewol, Hanlim, and Hangyung.

Unfortunately, Jeju island is also at the forefront of a nationwide (and worldwide) eruption of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

According to the statistics released in 2016 by the government, the estimated prevalence of dementia in those aged over 65 on Jeju was 12. 13% (10,888 people), the highest in Korea. This compares to a nationwide average of 10.18%

Among South Koreans aged 65 or older, the Ministry of Health and Welfare estimates that 725,000 people are suffering from dementia. Experts expect that the number will reach the one million mark in 2024, and surge to 2 million in 2041 and 2.7 million in 2050.

During his presidential campaign, Moon Jae-in stressed the importance of government responsibility to cope with dementia and proposed launching a state care program to handle the issue.

Under the pledge, the Moon government plans to increase the number of care centers for dementia, build new hospitals to treat the disease and establish relevant links across the medical, welfare and nursing sectors. The government will inject a 160 billion-won ($143 million) extra budget to build new dementia care centers nationwide.

However, Jeju failed to secure the government budget for the establishment of a new hospital specialized in treating dementia patients.

Strong criticism came from the local authorities and residents, quoted as saying “the prevalence of dementia in Jeju is highest in Korea. It is very regrettable that Jeju was excluded from the government service although there is growing demands for state-run care center”

In fact, Jeju and Sejong city are the only two cities which do not have state-run nursing homes.

A statement released on Sept. 20 by the Baren opposition party, Jeju, claimed that Jeju severely lacks facilities, experts, medical staff and caregivers dedicated to treating dementia patients. “Without state support, Jeju cannot move even one step forward.”

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