The oldest citizen of the Czech Republic, Marie Kraslova from South Bohemia, celebrated her 108th birthday on Monday, surrounded by family members and still in good health. This year alone, almost two hundred Czechs have reached or are about to reach the age of 100, and the number of centenarians is expected to rise as the trend of population ageing continues.
According to records of the Czech Social Security Administration, the oldest Czech man is 106 years old. They report that the Czech Republic, with a population of 10 million, has several hundred centenarians. Spokeswoman Stepanka Filipova:
"At the beginning of November, the Czech Social Security Administration registered 404 people who are 100 or more years old, that is people born between 1898 and 1906. According to our statistic, 338 of them were women and 66 were men."
The highest number of centenarians - 77 - live in Prague, and in South Moravia where there are 53 people over 100 years old. The smallest number, only five, live in the Karlovy Vary region. The Czech Social Security Administration has a special birthday present for all 100-year-olds - a 2,000-crown rise in their monthly pension. The average monthly pension in the Czech Republic is just over 8,000 crowns. Stepanka Filipova again.
"In October this year, the Czech Social Security Administration distributed old-age pensions to 1,994,000 people. That is almost 75 percent of all people entitled to some kind of pension in the Czech Republic."
Demographer Jitka Rychtarikova says that population projections suggest the number of old-age pensioners is only expected to rise.
"Currently, in the Czech Republic, we have about 14 percent of people aged 65 or more but this number will be increasing. In 2050 about 30 percent of the population will be over the age of 65."
The number of Czechs entitled to an old-age pension increased by 32,000 in the first half of 2006 alone. The government has announced that it needs to find some 10 billion crowns which is lacking in the state budget for the December and January pensions - a similar situation as in the two previous years.
A long-put-off reform of the Czech Republic's pension system is one of the key issues that the government now has to tackle. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas is due to present the outline of his reform on Thursday.