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Old-age policy encompasses all measures (federal, cantonal and municipal) which have a bearing on the lives of the elderly. Guaranteeing an adequate income and the promotion of the participation and integration of the elderly in society are of particular importance.
In the broader sense, old-age policy touches on a range of different subject matters and policy areas, such as:
In the narrower sense, old-age policy at the federal level is concerned with financial provisions in old age through the three-pillar system (first pillar: OASI and supplementary benefits; second pillar: occupational benefit plan, i.e. pension schemes; third pillar: voluntary pension schemes). The Confederation also handles health-related aspects, such as prevention, health insurance and the funding of long-term care.
The cantons and municipalities are responsible for providing the elderly with assistance and care, i.e. through SPITEX, as well as in retirement and nursing homes.
Old-age policy in Switzerland follows the principles of federalism and subsidiarity. According to these principles, the Confederation cedes responsibility for all areas of old-age policy, insofar as they are able to perform these tasks. The Confederation therefore has a purely ancillary and enabling role. This means that the cantons, cities and municipalities are responsible for the practical aspects of old-age policy (assistance and care). The Confederation is primarily responsible for financial and health provisions in old age.
Many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also bring their influence to bear on old-age policy. Many of these activities benefit from federal and cantonal sponsorship. Self-help, as well as the care and support of the elderly by family and the community are also important.
At the federal level, a number of different offices are concerned either directly or indirectly with old-age policy issues. The following list neither claims to be exhaustive nor does it comprehensively detail the range of activities undertaken by the individual offices:
Within the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO), the Old-age and Survivors Insurance Division deals with issues relative to OASI, occupational benefit plans and supplementary benefits.
The Family, Generations and Society domain (FGS) is responsible for issues relative to the family, children, youth and old-age, generational relations and general social policy issues.
The Swiss Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH) is responsible for health insurance, the funding of long-term care, as well as prevention and health promotion.
The Federal Finance Administration (FFA) deals with the impact of demographic changes on the public finances.
The Swiss Federal Statistical Office (SFSO) develops demographic scenarios and long-term forecasts.
The Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) is responsible for the new law on the protection of adults.
The Federal Office for Migration (FOM) deals with issues related to older migrants. It also provides information on issues which arise when individuals wish to spend their retirement abroad.
The Federal Office of Sports (FOSPO) is responsible for senior citizen sports, as well as the training of senior citizen sports leaders.
Within the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco), the Directorate of Labour handles all issues relating to the elderly workforce.
The Federal Housing Office (FHO) deals with the construction of accommodation for the elderly.
The Swiss Federal Roads Authority (FEDRO) deals with issues relative to road traffic and thus are responsible for the issue of driving licences for senior citizens.
The Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) deals with general residential issues, different population groups and the impact of demographic changes.
The cantons have their own offices which deal with issues related to old age. These vary widely in terms of their design and their level of activity. A number of cantons have produced reports on the elderly.
Care and assistance for the elderly is very much a municipal affair. One of the responsibilities which falls to the municipalities is providing the elderly with the necessary facilities and services (e.g. SPITEX, day-care centres, Meals-on-Wheels programmes, as well as retirement and nursing homes). The quantity and quality of such services vary. The municipalities also have an office, generally the local OASI branch, where individuals can submit a request for supplementary benefits. The SPITEX Switzerland website provides a search facility, where the individual can enter the name of a municipality and receive information on the SPITEX services in the area. CURAVIVA (Swiss Association of Retirement and Nursing Homes) provides information on retirement and nursing homes.
Many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are active in the field of old-age policy. Some receive state subsidies and perform specific tasks. The Confederation can also use OASI resources to fund assistance for the elderly. This takes the form of service agreements with Pro Senectute, the Swiss Red Cross, Parkinson Suisse, the Swiss Alzheimers Association, CURAVIVA, SPITEX Switzerland and the Swiss Gerontology Society. Until the NFA (Reorganisation of Financial Equalisation) enters into force in 2008, OASI subsidies will be given to SPITEX organisations throughout the country for the provision of home care and assistance, as well as for Meals-on-Wheels programmes. The same also applies to day-care centres.
There is a wealth of international and European organisations which issues related to old age related issues. The homepages of the Centre for Gerontology and the Swiss Gerontology Society provide links to many foreign and international organisations.
The UN has so far organised two world assemblies around the theme of ageing. The first was held in Vienna in 1982 and the second in Madrid in 2002. Switzerland took part in both assemblies. In preparation for the Madrid event, the FSIO published a discussion paper entitled "Longevity - social challenge and cultural chance".
The following laws are of particular importance for the elderly:
Given that the cantons, cities and municipalities are responsible for many areas of old-age policy, each of these administrative levels has extensive legal regulations in place.
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