Case Study

Creating mutual support and volunteer networks: Intergenerational Self-Help Clubs in Vietnam

Aging In Place
Crisis Settings

ISHCs are an innovative community-driven initiative to promote healthy aging through a broad range of self-supported interventions. The model has been rapidly upscaled in Vietnam since 2006 and is being implemented across Southeast Asia. 

The focus: Vietnam is a rapidly aging society; experts predict that by 2050 the number of adults over age 60 will more than double, from 11.9 million in 2019 to 29 million, making up almost a third of the country’s population. In addition, many older adults face challenges accessing healthcare and economic support, particularly in rural areas. Barriers to access are heightened due to urbanization combined with limited social protection policies that apply largely to those with formal-sector affiliation. 

How it works: Each club has its own unique model to best serve the needs of the community, but in general all ISHCs facilitate activities and support for participants, spanning health promotion, social pursuits and economic activities. Typical activities include home health visits and care; music, dance and art; microfinance and technical assistance; and rights awareness activities. The clubs, each with 50-70 members, foster inclusivity and are explicitly designed to promote health and gender equity. Typically, most members are women, aged over 55 and from a disadvantaged background. The program’s initial focus was on rural areas with lower incomes and less access to care services. Clubs are locally managed, and each club has at least five home-care volunteers.

Enabling environment: Civil society actors, partnering with multilateral organizations, brought ISHCs to fruition, and the Vietnamese government has led recent efforts to scale the program. It was started by HelpAge International and local partners. Alongside HelpAge, organizations such as the Vietnam Women’s Union, the Vietnam Association of the Elderly, and the Center for Ageing Support and Community Development assisted with local implementation. The model’s success eventually drew strong government support. The government aims to expand to over 10,000 ISHCs by 2030, up from 3,412 in 2020. ISHCs are sustainable and replicable because members’ income-generating activities are typically able to fund the clubs without outside investment after two years. Finally, the model’s adaptability has fostered its spread and broader adoption.

Impact: ISHCs have improved health, social and economic outcomes, becoming a support system for older adults during the covid-19 pandemic. Eighty-five percent of members report improved health, 90% report access to health insurance each year, and over 94% have at least two health check-ups each year. Nearly 85% of ISHC members actively participate in physical exercise at least three times per week, and almost all members report improved confidence. The clubs have also raised member incomes. As of 2020, roughly 13,500 members received care from over 17,000 volunteers. Most recently, the program has used its network to provide timely and important information about covid-19, as well as distribute masks, rice and funds. 

Sources Include

Sources include:

Adapt to Aging Through Intergenerational Self-Help Club: Case Study of Vietnam. HelpAge International. 2020. Available from: 

Assessing Results of UNFPA’s Piloted Community-Based Model on Care for Older Persons in Ben Tre and Hai Duong Provinces. Development and Policies Research Centre and UNFPA. 2015. Available from:  

EIU communication with HelpAge International Vietnam Office staff. November - December 2020.