How Malta is Tackling Elderly PovertyIn Malta, elderly people are not considered as vulnerable as the working class when it comes to being at risk of poverty. However, in 2016, almost 25% of elderly people in Malta were at risk of poverty. The Maltese government has since stepped in to tackle elderly poverty. Here is the current situation with elderly poverty in Malta and what is being done about it.

The Current Situation in Malta

Malta’s elderly poverty rate is higher than the EU average of 21%. Malta recently increased its 2008 median income to supposedly lower the poverty rate but it did the opposite. The same result happened with Malta’s GDP. The country experienced a higher-than-average GDP growth over the past few years; however, poverty grew with it. This has shown to make a significant impact on working populations but not so much with the elderly population, thus making elderly people less vulnerable to poverty.

There is also a bit of a gender gap in terms of at-risk poverty for the elderly in Malta. About 20% of elderly women in Malta are at-risk of poverty, whereas 15% of men are at risk of poverty. However, the gender gap in Malta is lower than the EU average by a few percentage points.

There is also severe material deprivation in Malta but the rate is not high enough to make a significant impact. Material deprivation is where a person cannot afford things that are desired or necessary for everyday life from utilities to annual holidays to household goods like a washer or a car. Material deprivation is measured under nine categories. If someone cannot afford three things from the nine categories they are considered materially deprived. If someone cannot afford four things under the nine categories, they are considered severely materially deprived.

Malta’s rate of severe material deprivation has gone down over the years from more than 10% in 2014 to about 4% in 2016. This is possibly due to the rise in median income as well as a drop in unemployment. It could also be due to the rise in pensions and benefits for the elderly over the years.

What the Maltese Government is Doing to Combat Elderly Poverty

The National Strategic Policy for Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion is one measure to tackle elderly poverty in Malta. The policy is based on six categories vital for the well-being of people and aims to combat poverty levels. The categories include income and social benefits, employment, education, health and environment, social services and culture. The strategic actions act as a safety net on a preventative and interventionist level.

Another measure to tackle elderly poverty is government-funded programs and policies aimed at pension funding and benefits for the elderly. One program is the Full Pension Entitlement program. This program is for elderly people still working at their retirement age. Since the program’s introduction in 2014, more than 10,000 people have benefitted from the program.

Another program is the Senior Citizen’s Grant. This grant gives out a €300 annual allowance for people over 75. This grant has helped out almost 30,000 people. The government also gives out bonuses to retirees who are not entitled to a pension. These bonuses help out more women than men and have helped more than 12,000 people in 2016. Finally, the government created the Draft National Strategy for Retirement Income and Financial Literacy. This draft aims to educate the importance of planning people’s retirement early as well as establishing campaigns to assist people in making good financial choices for retirement.

Older generations in Malta may not be as vulnerable as the working class or young people, but elderly poverty is still an issue in Malta. With these new policies and programs aiming to help elderly people in Malta, there is hope to eradicate elderly poverty and improve the quality of life for the elderly population in Malta.

– Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Egypt
Egypt’s poverty levels and its elderly population are increasing. UNFPA reported that 20.2% of the Egyptian population will be aged 60 and over in 2050. Meanwhile, the World Bank Group reported a poverty rate of 32.5% at the national poverty line in 2017. According to this, the amount of old persons in poverty is growing. To better understand what this means, it is necessary to know about some key aspects regarding elderly poverty in Egypt. These include what tools Egypt is fighting elderly poverty with, what the reality is for elderly Egyptians in poverty and what the future outlook for elderly poverty in Egypt is.

Egypt’s Tools Against Elderly Poverty

Due to the steady increase in elderly poverty over recent decades, Egypt implemented multiple initiatives to combat it. Some include a national policy on aging, national committees on aging in public and private sectors, health insurance to the poorest elderly, cultural and entertainment services and directives on public accessibility and mobility.

Cash transfer systems, like the Social Aid and Assistance program (SAA) and the more prominent safety net program Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity), also aid elderly poverty in Egypt. Takaful and Karama, which the Egyptian government and the World Bank Group established in 2015, aims to improve access to health and education for poor and vulnerable populations. The implementation of the World Bank’s project involved an initial $400 million in funding to positively influence 1.5 million persons with disabilities, families with young children and the elderly. Karama directly protects and promotes poor elderly persons’ wellbeing through unconditional monthly pensions.

Multiple elderly Egyptians earn an income through Egypt’s allowances for the standard retirement age. Although the global typical retirement age is 60, Egyptian judges, researchers and academics can work until 70. This ensures steady financials for many, keeping elderly poverty levels at bay.

The Reality of Elderly Poverty in Egypt

Though Egypt’s efforts to tamper elderly poverty are extensive, they do not tell the full story for the country’s poor elderly individuals. For example, cash transfer programs are often inaccessible or experience poor implementation. Applications for SAA are strictly in person, making it harder for old persons to physically access, apply for and benefit from the program. Under Takaful and Karama in 2018, a small number of impoverished elderly persons actually received pensions — only 3.5% according to an article that the UN published.

In previous years, many impoverished elderly individuals disclosed dissatisfaction with their knowledge of and access to services. Sarah Sabry, a member of the Arab Learning Initiative, conducted interviews with people in poor and vulnerable positions in El-Ezba and El-Zelzal in Cairo to reveal their living conditions. Among the interviewees were elderly persons living alone and an elderly widow living with her daughters and grandchildren. They communicated issues like little to no access to free health services, insufficient infrastructure, distance to the nearest health facility and lack of preventative health care.

People also conveyed a lack of knowledge regarding services available to them — a woman who applied for SAA recounted receiving a rejection without explanation. Overall, many indicated uncertainty regarding what documents they required to apply for aid.

In response to these circumstances among others, additional efforts emerged. The monthly beneficiary pension through Karama extended 100 Egyptian pounds (EGPs) to 450 EGPs to assist with price increases, and many recent beneficiaries are elderly — about 18% out of some 2.5 million. As of 2020, at least 2.5 million families actively benefit from the World Bank’s and Egyptian Government’s Takaful and Karama safety net program. Although there are undoubtedly gaps in the scope and accessibility of these programs, it is hard to ignore the reality of elderly lives reached and improved.

Looking into the Future

Twelve percent of Egypt’s elderly persons experienced impoverishment in 2017. With the projected growth in the elderly population, elderly poverty in Egypt will surely grow. There are clearly effective mechanisms in place to address elderly poverty, but just as clearly, those mechanisms do not have perfect reach given this expected growth. The World Bank asserts that amplifying projects like Takaful and Karama and food subsidy allowances can combat the rise in poverty. As a result, the expansion of services today will likely improve tomorrow for Egypt’s elderly individuals.

– Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Fiji
The small island of Fiji has seen a significant jump in life expectancy in the last 50 years. Where once the highest age people expected was 55 years old, Fiji’s population is slowly growing older with residents living to the age of 70 and on. While medical advancements and improved sanitary conditions have extended the residents’ lives, the government has left little economic room for the island’s elderly citizens. As a result, elderly poverty in Fiji is prevalent.

The Situation

All formal Fijian workers have a mandated retirement age of 55 years old leaving many without sufficient income for the decades to follow. As a result of this outdated system, more and more of Fiji’s older residents are sinking into poverty in their final years.

While the retirement age affects all citizens, ethnicity and marital status are two of the most influential factors in elderly poverty in Fiji. Indo-Fijians, residents of Indian descent, are more likely to have received a secondary education, owned their own business and maintained a more stable income. Meanwhile, ethnic Fijians, residents of Fijian descent, are more likely to fall into poverty because they were often informal workers and only received primary education.

The Fijian National Provident Fund (FNPF)

The Fijian National Provident Fund (FNPF) is a government-funded pension for the workers of Fiji. Both employees and employers contribute 8% of employee wages to this fund. Unfortunately, the fund does not pay out large enough sums to the growing elderly population that is living longer and longer each year and as a result, it is having little effect on elderly poverty in Fiji. While other government schemes are attempting to assist such as a Government Social Pension Scheme (SPS), The Family Assistance Program (FAP) and The Poverty Benefit Scheme(PBS), they still come up short.

In addition to the inadequacy of pension payments, 72% of Fijians do not qualify to receive a pension because they were part of the informal work sector. Informal work is typically jobs that are less stable and consistent and often have lower wages. Informal workers have a difficult time preparing for retirement because of the nature of this work and suffer the most when forced into retirement.

Marital Status

Most elderly Fijians who are married continue to live with their spouse and children. This tradition of the elderly leaning on their children and family for financial support has come to be expected, but not guaranteed.

Single citizens and those who have separated, divorced or become widowed are more likely to reside alone and have to rely solely on their pension or welfare payments. Additionally, they are often unable to afford to live independently forcing them to co-reside with others.

Women

Women are most vulnerable to falling into elderly poverty in Fiji. Halima Bibi, a 72-year-old Fijian woman that has been living alone and without electricity for 20 years, scrapes by on a combined $170 a month that she receives from welfare and a religious organization. Although women are responsible for 52% of all work on the island, they disproportionately receive 27% of the total income that Fijians collect. Women experience exclusion from the economy and tend to outlive men by several years, often leaving them without the financial support of their spouse. As a result, many Fijian women such as Bibi go without basic comforts and struggle just to survive.

A recent change in values and priorities has diminished the family safety net that many Fijians, and especially women, rely on. Many elderly Fijians live just like Bibi and struggle to survive retirement relying on measly welfare checks and the charity of their community or family.

The Fijian Government’s Efforts

The Fijian government is continuously amending policy restrictions and improving income security to combat elderly poverty in Fiji but as the country’s life expectancy continues to increase, it is struggling to keep up. If the government can monitor the population and maintain accurate statistics on elderly poverty, it will be able to amend these policies to help a greater number of impoverished elderly.

If the Fijian government can modify these pension schemes to account for the extra hardships women endure as well as the neglected workers of the informal sector, elderly poverty in Fiji could reduce. An affordable health care system and financial educational programs would greatly benefit the elderly as well, resulting in them keeping more money in their pension and being more prepared for retirement.

Organizations Providing Aid

While the government attempts to widen the safety net for Fiji’s elderly population, organizations including Habitat for Humanity or the Peace Corps are trying to reduce the financial burdens of the older population. The Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS) is an agency that receives donations from the state that other countries have given as aid. The FCOSS allocates the funds where necessary with an emphasis on the elderly. It also provides the HelpAge program that targets struggling elderly and directs assistance towards them to alleviate hardships.

Most importantly, the government must increase the retirement age to allow the elderly to continue to earn income and also guarantee an effective pension for the future. Even with new schemes directed at the chronically impoverished and volunteer organizations’ efforts, it is essential that Fiji changes the retirement age and allocates proper funds to the older population to ensure they can enjoy their golden years.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

The Growing Concern of Elderly Poverty in FranceSince the early 1970s, the mean standard of living for senior citizens above 65 years old in France has significantly improved. Complying with the guidelines that the second U.N. World Assembly on Aging (WAA) in 2002 and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging (MIPAA) brought up, France keeps implementing aging policies that focus on the health and well-being of elderly people, their participation and benefits in the social development and a more enabling and supportive environment. However, elderly poverty in France remains a socioeconomic issue. As of 2012, 17.5% of French people are over 65 years old, whereas working-age people between 15 and 64 take up 63.8% of the total population. A 2019 study reported that around one out of 10 elderly people in France lives in poverty, which is to say, there are now more than one million French people of old age living below the poverty threshold.

Wealthier than the Younger Population

Although elderly poverty in France is a significant issue, senior French citizens are not the most susceptible group to poverty. The elderly population is far behind young adults, females and immigrants in terms of one’s risk of poverty. The French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) reported that in 2015, elderly people over 65 years old are not only half as likely to fall into the lowest-earning 10% as their counterparts between the ages of 25 and 64, but their proportion among the lowest-earning 20% also decreases in the 21st century.

Such situations are the comprehensive outcome of more continuous career and higher wages, higher retirement pensions, mandatory supplementary schemes and so on. They also have more time and opportunity for inheritance and savings, and their forms of resources are less sensitive to economic fluctuations. As such, it is not too hard to understand why the mean standard of living for elderly people is 3% higher than that for the younger generations in France.

Health Status

Yet despite accumulated wealth, health status deteriorates remarkably with age, which may cause extra expenses that Social Security does not cover and lead to elderly poverty in France. In 2015, 43% of French people over 65 years old endured at least one long-term illness, and the percentage keeps rising over the years.

When the deterioration in health causes a partial loss of autonomy and home care is no longer suitable, the elderly people have to live in an institutional setting such as a nursing home, and this would be another large expense that many are not able or not willing to afford. Only fewer than 2% of people aged below 75 live in a nursing institution, and for those over 85 years old, the number climbs to ten times higher.

The Incoming Challenge of Population Aging

As the problem of population aging is becoming increasingly serious in Europe, it is too early for the elderly to be too optimistic. In 2012, there were 15 million French people aged over 60 years old, and this number is expected to reach 24 million in 50 years, alongside the extended life expectancy. Over the last decade, more people went into retirement, and there were 5% of elderly people aged between 65 and 74 still in employment, many of whom were part-time employees with low qualifications, shopkeepers and older farmers.

The French government has to adjust the retirement pension and health care policies to ensure the well-being of old age. So far various actions are underway, but the results are far from satisfying. For instance, a large national strike began in December 2019 to protest against President Macron’s pension system reform. The government must take into consideration the growing elderly poverty in France and actively work to alleviate poverty rates with policies and financial support.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in China
China has one of the largest elderly populations in the world. About 128 million people in China are over the age of 60. By the year 2050, there will be approximately 400 million people over the age of 60. Elderly poverty in China is a major concern, as 22.9% of the elderly population lives below the poverty line. This poses health concerns as well since there is a strong correlation between health and wealth. Of the elderly population, 26.2% of those living in poverty needed assistance with everyday activities compared to 22.7% of those above the poverty line. Fortunately, China has recognized a need to develop regulations and programs to help the elderly.

Caring for the Elderly

Elderly poverty in China is due in part to the struggles they face in caring for their own needs. Traditionally, the elderly would live with one of their children. It was the child’s duty to care for their elderly parents and make sure their needs were met. However, today children are more frequently moving out of their homes, leaving their parents to live alone. Family-based care is becoming impractical in China, as middle-aged children do not have the time to take care of their parents. More than 23% of China’s elderly population are now living alone.

The number of homes for the elderly is not enough to support the population. China currently has 289 pension homes that can only house 9,924 people. This only accounts for 0.6% of China’s population over 60. The rest of the population must fend for themselves when it comes to healthcare and housing.

Thankfully, regulations have been put in place to encourage private and foreign investment in homes for the elderly. The National Convention on Aging along with other departments has created a Five-Year Plan to increase access to healthcare and housing to the elderly population in an effort to solve elderly poverty in China.

China’s Five-Year-Plan

The first part of the plan includes allocating more beds for the elderly in hospitals. The number of beds in public hospitals and care agencies for the elderly will account for 50% of the total capacity by 2020. In addition, 35% of top-tier hospitals will have geriatric care departments. Healthcare and pension plans will be improved as well, with 90% of the population covered by basic pension insurance and 95% covered by basic health insurance.

Since 2019, wait times for the elderly to get into a nursing home has significantly decreased. Wait times before the plan could be as long as 20 years. Now, the elderly can be put on a waiting list and enter a private nursing home within one month.  The rise of private nursing homes in 2019 stemmed from multiple municipalities announcing nursing homes would no longer have to obtain permits. The government has also incentivized institutions to provide homes for the elderly. Community centers are granted a reduction in utilities and increased subsidies if they provide care to the elderly.

Hopefully, the plan will continue to alleviate the burden the elderly have of finding housing and care in China. Moving forward, it is essential that the government continues to prioritize the eradication of elderly poverty in China.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Taiwan
In recent decades, Taiwan has made rapid improvements in the quality of life of its people, resulting in less than 1% of the population being poor or low income. Although these facts are definitely something to celebrate, Taiwan’s demographic has changed drastically during this time. People are living longer and having fewer children, causing the rate of aging in Taiwan to accelerate. In fact, Taiwan’s accelerated rate of aging is so high that it more than doubles that of European countries and the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies an “aging society” as when 7% of the population is 65 and older. Taiwan became an aging society in 1993 and estimates have determined that it will become a “super-aged society” by 2025 as about 20% of the population could be over the age of 65.

As the size of the ever-growing elderly population expands, their quality of life dissipates. Many rural counties in Taiwan have a dependency rate (the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages) in excess of 10%. These rural townships lack even more services and resources, having limited access to essentials like medical and transportation services— and most notably, caregivers who leave and move to metro areas for jobs and education. This leaves the island with a dilemma on how to promote systematic endeavors— both in policies and research, as well as encouraging more involvement in non-government organizations to help with this aging issue. Here are five positive changes regarding elderly poverty in Taiwan.

5 Positive Changes Regarding Elderly Poverty in Taiwan

  1. Providing Proper Healthcare Coverage: In 2013, Taiwan introduced the National Health Insurance Program (NHI), a single-payer compulsory social insurance plan that covers annual health examinations for seniors 65 and older. NHI grants go to those aged 70 years or older with medium to low income, and grants that may include fiscal constraints from local authorities can go to citizens aged 65 to 69.
  2. Ensuring Economic Stability: A National Pension that launched in 2005 serves Taiwanese citizens who do not receive coverage from public funds. They have assured a living allowance based on their family’s financial circumstances. This secures regular, lifelong pension benefits for an elderly population living on a lower income. If there are seniors who are not receiving shelter or resettlement services from institutions, family caregivers may receive a monthly special care allowance as an additional aid. The Pilot Program, an option for senior citizens to convert their houses and land into monthly payments, is another coverage plan also taking effect and creating a positive change in regard to elderly poverty in Taiwan.
  3. Building a Long-term Care Plan: The SFAA (Social and Family Affairs Administration) implemented an initiative to improve Taiwan’s long-term home and community-based services. Beneficial services like daily routine assistance and mental and physical healthcare for the disabled are improving the quality of life of Taiwanese seniors. The SFAA has also enacted an assistive device acquisition to support in-home mobility and improvement of residential accessibility, respite care to support family caregivers, transportation to those who require long-term care, as well as providing daily healthy meals to economically disadvantaged or disabled seniors.
  4. Establishing Access to Social Welfare Programs: New developments like tour buses are providing care services spanning from inner cities to the more rural areas of the island. The SFAA developed this to encourage seniors to step outside and interact with the community. Through this service, they can learn more about social welfare benefits like health counseling, senior care, leisure and entertainment. The SFAA has also funded Senior Citizen Schools where seniors can join courses that enhance their quality of life after retirement. Seniors also have the asset of participating in the Double Ninth Festival which insights ideas of healthy-aging by staying active and involved in competitions and other activities.
  5. Addressing the Rising Alzheimers and Dementia Crisis: A dramatic rise in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia has ignited involvement in government and non-government organizations (NGOs). Amongst these organizations making a difference in elderly poverty in Taiwan is the School of Wisdom, based in Taipei. This program enables Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to keep physically and mentally stimulated and live a fuller, happier life. Programs such as these provide helpline services, care and nursing facilities, education websites and support gatherings for the patients and their caregivers.

Adapting to a New Demographic

As Taiwan’s economic prosperity continues to evolve at a continuing rate, it is important to pay attention to those who may be falling behind. Taking affirmative action on positive changes to end elderly poverty in Taiwan is the greatest way for the Taiwanese to stay true to their rooted cultural values of respecting one’s elders and to ensure that citizens in need are experiencing an optimal quality of life.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Mexico
In today’s society, people sometimes see the elderly as excess baggage rather than actual human beings. A place where this unfortunate reality is present is in Mexico, where 7.8% of the population is over the age of 65. Within this percentage, 41.1% live in poverty, 34.6 in moderate poverty and 6.6% ($1.90 a day) live in extreme poverty. Here is some information about elderly poverty in Mexico.

Poverty and Mental Health

About 29.2% of all elderly people live alone or with their spouses, be that in a small house or on the streets. The government covers only 46% (which only consists of the formal economy) of the elderly; the other 54% must struggle on their own. With no welfare, retirement plan and aid from the government, over 32,000,000 have no choice but to work past their prime. It is not uncommon for these elders to experience abuse, or for customers, employers or employees to take advantage of them. Due to this, many elderly are vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, stress and loneliness that come from poverty. The day-to-day struggle to scrape up money and food for themselves and their families is at times a burden too heavy to bear. Results from an analysis of suicide rates in Mexico go as follows; from January 2014 to December 2015, 990 residents died from suicide, with 78.28% being males and 21.72% being females. The highest death rates amongst males were 20-24 and 75-79. For females, the highest mortality rate was from 15-19 years old.

Of course, there are ways both the elderly and their families can do to improve mental health. For the elderly that live with families, positive family dynamics (conversations, actions of kindness and a feeling of contribution) can greatly aid their mental health. For many seniors, nothing compares to the support from family. Another type of support is social support, which is support that comes from outside immediate family. This commonly comes in the form of encouragement from community members, co-workers and strangers.

Solutions

One reason elderly poverty in Mexico persists is that only 46% of them (within the Formal economy) have access to assistance programs. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to state that Mexico does nothing to help its elderly. INAPAM (Instituto Nacional para las Personas Adultos Mayores) is a popular program that allows any Mexican resident (over the age of 60) to acquire worthwhile discounts (10%-50%) on a wide range of goods and services such as food, medicine, transportation, clothing and recreational activities. Mexicans can apply easily if they have the necessary requirements. One specific requirement states that the person in question must present a form to confirm their address. Many elderly have no official home, so that fact can immediately disqualify them from applying.

Aztin is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing needs such as education, nutrition, water and health. Since 1977, Aztin has worked closely with families trapped in poverty in the village of Tlamacazapa, Guerrero, Mexico, providing programs that vary from helping with dental hygiene, providing aid to those with special needs and implementing sanitation programs. Locals run Aztin with the idea of social participation in the hope that a sense of personal empowerment will begin with an inner spark of possibility and continue to grow.

Informal Workers and Poverty

For formal workers (workers officially hired, have a set salary, receive health benefits and work benefits), taking a day off is an option. However, 60% of Mexico’s workforce is informal and within this percentage there are 32,000,000 elderly that work informally, thus eliminating any chance of receiving the benefits listed above. It is not uncommon to find a woman well past her 80s working 60-hour shifts in a supermarket without it officially hiring her. As a result, her only way to earn money is from the tips from her customers. For informal workers old and young, this is the lifestyle that poverty has burdened them with. Some may have money, but it is often not enough to call savings. At most, the money may last a week, but after that, these individuals may not have any choice but to work. Necessity and poverty corners the elderly.

A popular program that helps the informal population is called Seguro Popular. This program is an income-based health-insurance program that is available to all non-salaried people who cannot access social security due to not having employment under the government. This includes independent workers (freelancers), people with disabilities and the elderly who do not participate in the labor force. This program provides financial assistance to over 50,000,000 Mexicans and is slowly improving access to health care, especially for the poor.

The Mexican government and its people are diligently working to find ways to provide for their elderly population. Through the continued work of Aztin and the Mexican government, elderly poverty in Mexico should reduce.

– Aaron Samperio
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Australia 
What is the happiest nation on Earth? Well, according to BBC News’ qualifications, Australia held the title for three straight years. Australia boasts a long life expectancy, a thriving economy and low rates of unemployment. Australia also consistently beats OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) averages when it comes to economic standards. For example, Australia is above the OECD average employment rate for people 15 to 64 years old. More than 73% of this demographic has employment, establishing the country as a place of opportunity and economic success. This statistic may explain why many consider Australia “happy,” but it leaves out a significant portion of Australia’s population: the elderly. They often experience exclusion from employment statistics, being a largely retired group, leaving their story untold and unrecognized. Here is some information about elderly poverty in Australia.

Elderly Poverty in Australia

Poverty inevitably throws its hardest punch to vulnerable groups like women or children. These groups have since become the focus of government programs and charities that aim to protect these demographics. But people too often forget the elderly, another vulnerable group.

Elderly poverty is a very real threat, even in developed nations like Australia. In fact, almost a third of Australians on pension live in poverty. The poverty rate for all of Australia’s elderly aged 65 and up is 19.5% and this number increases to 28.7% in groups over 75. With such shockingly high numbers, the question is, how is Australia neglecting its elderly?

In 2016, an OECD report found that Australia spends over 50% less of its GDP on pension than other OECD countries. In fact, only 3.5% of the country’s GDP goes toward providing people with a pension. That leaves elderly people on a pension that is less than the median household income for Australia. The annual payment for one person is around $22,000. Considering the relatively high cost of living in Australia, this amount leaves many in need. The Australian government has ignored calls to raise pensions so far with pensions rates dropping or remaining stagnant since 2002.

Elderly people in Australia are especially at risk to fall into poverty. With so many people past the age of retirement and unable to work, they must depend on Australia’s unreasonably low pension to live. Aging is already a stressful process that, combined with financial stress and housing insecurity, becomes overwhelming.

The Solution

Thankfully, elderly people in Australia are not without help. Australians and people from all over the world are fighting for them. Specifically, Mission Australia has made elderly poverty one of its focuses. It calls for age pension reform and passionately advocates for Commonwealth Rent Assistance Recipients (of which many are elderly) to receive benefits that preserve a dignified and comfortable standard of living.

Council on the Ageing’s Chief Executive, Ian Yates, has admitted that raising the pension will be difficult, but that it is a necessary step. He said that “Claims that the age pension is somehow too extravagant and unsustainable do not bear out.”

Elderly poverty in Australia presents a problem that too often slips under the radar. However, with more people agreeing with Ian Yates or joining Mission Australia’s cause, the solution to the problem could be on the near horizon. Unlike most poverty issues, the solution to this one is simple, improve pension and/or other government programs in place for the elderly.

Elderly populations deserve respect and dignity just like any other group. And, only after the Australian government has addressed their plight can Australia truly be in contention for the “happiest nation on Earth.”

– Abigail Gray
Photo: Flickr

HelpAge InternationalThe World Bank estimates that the number of people living below the global poverty line, or those who live on less than $1.90 a day, has decreased by nearly 40% since 1990. This is largely due to the efforts of the United Nations and other global partnerships. Although these organizations are making outstanding progress, one demographic remains in seemingly inexorable poverty: the elderly. Fortunately, organizations like HelpAge International focus on helping elderly people around the world overcome poverty.

Many elderly people have little ability to provide for themselves. A lack of income, support and resources, may keep them in poverty. This is particularly prevalent in low-income countries. Especially during COVID-19, elderly people need more help than ever as they are at greater risk for infection and death. While more organizations are recognizing challenges facing older populations worldwide, their assistance is not enough to give the elderly the stability they need to lead healthier lives. This is where HelpAge International steps in.

Aging in Poverty

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Program on Ageing (UNDESA), the average poverty level for populations over 75 years old in OECD countries, or members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is 14.7%. This represents a 3.5% increase in poverty compared to those who are between 66 and 75, an astonishing rate for the world’s most prosperous nations in terms of world trade and investment. Statistics are unclear regarding elderly poverty rates in developing countries due to a lack of consistent data collection.

However, UNDESA explains that the “absence of social protection systems [in low-income countries] … are usually not sufficient to guarantee adequate income security.” Social protection systems are vital for the elderly who reduce their work hours as they age or stop working entirely due to dementia or other health conditions. Without those systems, they are left alone in inescapable poverty. What is more concerning is that the number of people across the world who are 80 years old or more is surging. An estimated 434 million people will reach this age group by 2050, two-thirds of whom will reside in underdeveloped nations. Therefore, poverty rates among elderly populations will not only become more severe, but they will also become more widespread, creating an even greater need for assistance programs.

HelpAge International

After witnessing older refugee abandonment during the Somalia and Ethiopia wars, Sir Lesley Kirkley, Chair of Help the Aged’s Overseas Committee, and Chris Beer, the organization’s future CEO, formed HelpAge International in 1983 with the goal of creating a solid global support system.

The project initially began in Canada, Colombia, Kenya, India and the United Kingdom but has since spread to include 80 countries. Eye and community care were the initial priorities, but HelpAge International’s mission has evolved into delivering all necessary resources to help elderly men and women overcome poverty. The organization aims to create an inclusive, non-discriminatory environment for all older adults. Here are some of HelpAge International’s contributions and accolades.

  1. In 1999, HelpAge International distributed recommendations that specifically addressed elderly care during emergency response situations.
  2. In 2002, HelpAge aided in the formation of the United Nations Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, a plan focusing exclusively on elderly development, health and prosperity progress. The plan also aims to create sensitive and sympathetic environments for older adults.
  3. Also in 2002, HelpAge International launched an education initiative intended to teach the elderly about their rights, social pensions, access to healthcare and lobbying opportunities.
  4. In 2007, HelpAge participated in Age Demands Action, a global initiative to mobilize the elderly to express their policy and issue concerns to their governments.
  5. In 2012, HelpAge received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, recognizing the organization for its efforts in reducing global human suffering.
  6. Since 1980, HelpAge International has performed more than 45,000 surgeries in India alone aimed at restoring sight to the elderly.

COVID-19 Response

Elderly people have suffered the most from COVID-19, with more than 50% of deaths occurring in people aged 65 years or older since mid-April 2020. Underlying health conditions and lack of access to care and information cause many COVID-19 deaths in Venezuela and Jordan. HelpAge Venezuela is focusing its efforts in La Guajira, an underdeveloped and overpopulated area that rarely receives humanitarian aid. In partnership with Humanity and Inclusion and Pastoral Social, HelpAge is providing psychosocial support and COVID-19 awareness classes to the elderly via radio in order to reach remote populations.

The organization coordinated a more detailed and widespread response in Jordan by implementing several preventive and protective measures. HelpAge is serving elderly Jordanians by monitoring food and medicine deliveries across communities, delivering hygiene kits, providing financial assistance and conducting weekly remote outreach programs. All together, these actions affect more than 5,000 people. For its outstanding impact, the government of Jordan recognized HelpAge International as a crucial COVID-19 first responder and acknowledged its unique dedication to solely serving the elderly.

Impact

In its nearly 40-year existence, HelpAge International has changed thousands of lives worldwide, focusing on those neglected by other aid organizations. Seventy-three-year-old Salem Thyab Al Salaimeh of La Guajira, Venezuela expressed his gratitude to HelpAge for finally providing him and his family with protection, safety and comfort. Neither he, his 110-year-old mother nor his fellow elderly siblings had ever been helped by any organization until HelpAge began operations in Venezuela. Hopefully, as HelpAge International grows, more elderly people like Salaimeh and his family will receive the proper care, support and attention they deserve in order to escape poverty. By overcoming the poverty-induced challenges that hinder their ability to survive, the elderly will have greater potential to remain healthy and thrive.

Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Israel
Israel is a country known for its wide ethics and religious diversity. However, it has one of the highest rates of poverty among developed countries. In fact, about 1.8 million people in Israel live in poverty, and that number rose from 19.4% of the population in 2017 to 20.4% in 2018. Of the 1.8 million people, 874,000 are children. Child poverty grew by 50% between 2008 and 2005 in Israel, and while the poverty rate has remained largely the same since 2005, Israel still has one of the highest rates of poverty in the developed world. With the amount of Israelites in poverty steadily increasing over the years, there are many ways to address the growing number of families and children living in poverty in Israel through various organizations and targeted relief efforts.

Statistics about Poverty in Israel

The socioeconomic divide is steadily increasing in Israel, with the divide between wealthy and low-income neighborhoods becoming more drastic. Additionally, previous legislative measures did not address poverty in the long-term, and focused more on tax cuts rather than implementing social welfare programs that help poverty on a systemic level. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Anna Rajagopal, a student at Austin University and a Jewish and multiethnic educator, pointed out that “getting diaspora jews involved in donations, involved in monetary programs, involved in helping with financial aid and financial needs” is the best way to address poverty within smaller groups.

Rajagopal works to spread awareness about various issues plaguing Israelites and the Jewish community, such as anti-semitism and poverty. She noted that Orthodox Jews and Arabs are the ones poverty most disproportionately affects, and keeping their interests in mind is important for poverty alleviation efforts. In fact, 47% of the Arab population in Israel live in poverty, along with 45% of Orthodox households. Rajagopal also noted that poverty in Israel most often affects minorities and communities of color.

Movements and NGOs Targeting Poverty

Alongside these points, grassroots work has occurred to alleviate poverty in Israel by providing medical care, proper housing and other basic needs. One such organization working to provide aid is the Latet organization, which works to combat food insecurity among vulnerable groups, like the elderly, through a food bank and various financial assistance programs. Alongside these efforts, Latet has created youth programs to foster a sense of community. Its advocacy efforts are helping many poor people in Israel find support while spreading awareness of this issue to other countries.

Lastly, Rajagopal mentioned a more grassroots form of aid through a woman named Bracha Kappach, an Israelite woman who has worked towards poverty reduction efforts in Israel for the past 40 years. She operates on a small scale and opens her home to anybody who needs food or other financial assistance.

With this increasing awareness of Israel’s precarious situation, the government is working to increase the employment rate and make changes to the existing welfare program so that laborers can find jobs. Rajagopal’s insight into how the Israeli government can properly address poverty also includes involving multiethnic Jews in the conversation, because others often forget and villainize them when it comes to their portrayal in the media. “In fitting needs, there are ways to do it in which alienation wouldn’t be the forefront,” Rajagopal says. She believes that incorporating religious efforts will provide unity and highlight more poverty reduction efforts.

Conclusion

Israel remains entangled in a conflict with Palestine, which has shifted the focus away from poverty reduction for the time being. As such, organizations and grassroots movements like Haverim and Latet, and the work of individuals such as Kappach are primarily focusing on redirecting efforts towards helping the poor, and are especially important for providing essential aid and supplies for the most vulnerable parts of the population. These efforts in Israel prove that targeted aid and addressing the sociopolitical and religious identities of the Israeli and Jewish populations are essential to mitigating poverty in Israel in the long run.

– Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr