Elderly Poverty in Turkey
Turkey is a divided nation, caught between ancient traditions and the promise of modernity. Turkey’s elderly population especially reflects this, as many of Turkey’s elderly struggle to adapt to the drastic changes in social, cultural and economic landscapes. Turkey has the second-fastest-growing elderly population in the OECD, and with this uptick in the elderly population looming on the horizon, the Turkish traditions of elderly care are being put to the test. Yet, with the government turning its attention elsewhere, the silent threat of elderly poverty in Turkey presents a national problem.

Upholding Tradition

In many Turkish traditions, care for the elderly is a key pillar of Turkish values. People in Turkey consider the elderly in family units essential, not only for the sake of respect and tradition but also for the wisdom, knowledge and support they provide for the family. In religious terms, numerous verses and Surahs of the Quran describe the virtuosity regarding caring for the elders, as well as the importance of responsibility for one’s family. Surahs illustrates this in 17:23, in which respect for the elderly receives particular emphasis. In addition, Doctor Nermin Ersoy and Doctorate student İnsaf Altun wrote for the Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics stating that “In ancient Turkish societies the elders kept their existence after death. People believed that their spirit was living in the home.”

However, considering that expectations have determined that the elderly population in Turkey will triple by 2050, Turkey is facing a shortage of financial resources. The combination of these two factors presents an ominous future for the country’s elderly. One study by Statista found that 18.4% of Turkish elderly ages 65 and over already live in poverty. Another 2019 study from the European Social Policy network found that a whopping 9.4% of employed Turks aged 55-64 fell below the poverty line, ultimately amounting to uncared for and neglected elders.

Much-Needed Aid for Turkish Elderly

While the situation is bleak, some Turkish governmental agencies have worked to combat the effects of elderly poverty in Turkey. Prior to the pandemic, the Turkish government was beginning to work on revitalizing already existing elderly support programs. One such program, the Elderly Support Program, offers funding for elderly housing and care facilities, as well as reparative construction for existing civilian and community housing.

Another aid program aimed at helping Turks over the age of 60, the Caregiver Service Program, works to provide caregiving for seniors in need. The program provides financial support to the families of the elderly as well, citing the fact that more than 5.5 million people in the Turkish workforce earn less than the minimum wage, with the majority included in that figure caring for older family members. The Caregiver Service Program also raises awareness of elderly poverty and encourages younger generations to pursue careers in caregiving or related fields.

However, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, national support is not the only aid that some are offering to combat the silent threat of elderly poverty in Turkey. While the government implemented a quarantine for elderly Turks over the age of 65 to minimize the risk of COVID-19 for part of 2020, local organizations are also taking matters into their own hands. A local nonprofit in Istanbul dedicated to helping poverty-stricken Turks of all ages, Derin Yoksulluk Ağı (Deep Poverty Network), stated that even considering current government efforts and the inclusion of “old-age pension, [and] death compensation, even state aids are not enough to take people out of the poverty spiral.” Since the start of the pandemic, the Deep Poverty Network and organizations like it have worked to aid in alleviating the silent threat of elderly poverty in turkey.

The Future of Turkish Elderly Poverty

The current Turkish political landscape does not leave much room for the subject of elderly poverty in Turkey, with governmental attention focused on the more immediate political, economic and social struggles in Turkey. Without receiving the attention of Turkish leadership, the issue of elderly poverty has turned into a silently looming threat. With projections determining that the elderly population will triple by 2050, the silent threat of elderly poverty in Turkey still remains an issue. However, with the continued efforts of state programs and local assistance from organizations like the Deep Poverty Network, hope exists the outlook for Turkey’s elderly population.

– Maddie Youngblood
Photo: Unsplash

Elderly Poverty in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a country in northwestern Europe, neighboring Belgium to the south, Germany to the east and the North Sea to the north and west. A founding member of NATO, the E.U. and the OECD, the Netherlands has the world’s 18th largest economy and the sixth-largest in the European Union. With a life expectancy of 81.95 years and a relatively low birth rate, Dutch society is aging. Nevertheless, the Dutch seem to be doing so gracefully, as the rates of elderly poverty in the Netherlands are the lowest in the OECD. Here is the current situation regarding elderly poverty in the Netherlands and what the country is doing about it.

 

The Current Situation

Like most other European countries, the population of the Netherlands is aging. As of 2020, approximately 19% of the population is aged 65 and older, lower than the European average of 20.5% but higher than the U.S. figure of 17%. In 2016, the rate of elderly poverty in the Netherlands was only 3.1%. Elderly poverty in the Netherlands is the lowest within the OECD and much lower than the U.S. rate of 23%, the highest rate of elderly poverty within the OECD.

The good news for those in their golden years in The Netherlands does not stop there. Households that people aged 65 and older head in the Netherlands saw their capital increase from an average of 22,000 Euros annually in 1995 to 86,500 Euros in 2015. The income of this age group is five times higher than that of an average Dutch household. During the late 1990s, only about one in three elderly Dutch persons were homeowners, but by 2015 more than half owned their own homes. The risk of those aged 65 and over falling into poverty has also decreased over the past 20 years.

The Dutch Pension System

The Dutch pension system rests on three pillars: a flat-rate state pension, supplemental occupational pensions and voluntary private pension provisions. The first pillar, a flat-rate state pension, receives financing through payroll taxes paid to residents 67 years of age and older. Supplemental occupational pensions, the second pillar of the system, consist of additional occupational pensions accrued during employment. The third pillar is the voluntary private pension system, through either endowment insurance or annuity insurance. Together, these three assistance sources have provided a stable income source for older adults in the Netherlands.

The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index has classified the Dutch pension system as a B+ system, one of the best in the world. Only Australia has an equal rating for its pension system, and only Denmark’s pension system ranks higher with an A rating. The U.S. pension system, by comparison, obtained the rating of being a C system. A B+ pension system is defined as having a sound structure but with some room for improvement, while a C system has some positive features but significant shortcomings.

Extensive Home Ownership

According to Statistics Netherlands, increased capital among the elderly, which decreases the chances of slipping into poverty, lies in extensive homeownership. More than half of elderly homeowners own a home with a market value above the original purchase price.

Universal Health Care

Dutch law requires all residents to have a private health insurance policy, and insurers must accept every applicant. Furthermore, a national insurance system for long-term care such as nursing homes and exceptional medical expenses exists in the Netherlands. This insurance is mandatory and paid for through public insurance contributions. There seems to be a clear relationship between elderly poverty and health care spending. Among OECD countries, the Netherlands has the second-highest health care spending and the lowest rate of elderly poverty.

The picture has not been so rosy for the entire elderly population of the Netherlands. Elderly poverty in the Netherlands among those of non-Western background, who made up 6% of the total elderly population in 2020, is higher than that of the native Dutch. Income levels and life expectancy are lower among these groups than they are among native Dutch elders. This is an issue of concern, which reflects the disparity within larger Dutch society between natives and those of non-Western migrant backgrounds.

Tens of thousands of older people in the Netherlands do indeed live in poverty. Still, the low rate of poverty and significant financial success of the vast majority of older people in the Netherlands suggests that the system is working well for most.

Adam Abdelaziz
Photo: PIXY

 

Elderly in BangladeshThe world currently has approximately 720 million people over the age of 65. By 2050, about 22% (36 million) of Bangladesh’s people are projected to be in this age category. With this in mind, it is important that this growing demographic is taken care of. In particular, the poverty affecting the elderly in Bangladesh is a concern that should be attended to.

Elderly Poverty in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the most impoverished countries and the effects of poverty are felt hardest by vulnerable populations like the elderly. The Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries by how well their older populations are faring socially and economically. Bangladesh is considered a distinctly tough country for older people as HelpAge International ranked Bangladesh 67th out of 96 countries on the 2015 Global AgeWatch Index.

The organization notes that a considerable amount of the hardship inflicted upon older people in Bangladesh is due to natural disasters and extreme weather. Cyclones, floods, and heatwaves destroy the homes and livelihoods of elderly people. Additionally, HelpAge notes that elderly people in Bangladesh are often refused healthcare due to ageism within the country’s public health system.

Elderly people in Bangladesh also struggle to maintain a dependable income since finding employment is harder with age, especially with common and physically demanding jobs like rickshaw pulling or soil digging.  As in many other lower-income countries, elderly people in Bangladesh have to look for employment in old age due to inadequate livelihood support and insufficient social security measures.

While by no means exclusive to Bangladesh, another problem that the elderly face in Bangladesh is stigma, as pointed out by Dr. Atiqur Rahman. The stigma described is one that views the elderly as unproductive, unhealthy and needing intensive and constant care. Dr. Rahman describes the idea of the elderly being a burden as both morally and economically incorrect.

Old Age Allowance Program

The Old Age Allowance (OAA) program is a government social pension scheme that assists the elderly in Bangladesh. Originally implemented in 1997, the program provides welfare payments to qualifying elders in order to help them get by. The overall size of the program was rather small at its inception, supporting about 400,000 people. Since then, the OAA has come to cover 4.4 million elderly in Bangladesh and the size of the payments increased from 100 to 500 Bangladeshi takas (around $6). Granted the growth is a step in the right direction, the program is not yet at a point where it can help in the broad sense. Elderly poverty has still increased since it started. The OAA program accounts for a minuscule portion of Bangladesh’s budget (0.53%) and covers only 2.25 million elderly people.

Additionally, much of the fund is going to the wrong people. A study by the University of Dhaka’s Bureau of Economic Research and HelpAge International discovered that elderly people who are not impoverished are getting 50% of the total benefits and about 33% of the fund is going to those who are younger than the eligible age. Another study found that local governments lack the knowledge and interest to properly target relevant beneficiaries most in need.

Organizations Supporting the Elderly in Bangladesh

HelpAge International provides early warning systems for potential natural disasters. In times of these disasters, the organization ensures the elderly have shelter, food and access to services. For long-term relief, HelpAge restores livelihoods by supporting small business enterprises with low-cost community loans. The organization also provides training for healthcare workers to treat conditions affecting the elderly and works on improving healthcare infrastructure and referral systems for the elderly.

The Care First Foundation is an organization that offers the elderly in Bangladesh risk monitoring, referrals, counseling, medicine and medical support, home care and activities. Its goal is to expand its initiatives to alleviate elderly suffering through proper community support and services.

With more support from organizations and improvements to the social support system provided by the government, the elderly in Bangladesh can thrive and not just simply survive.

Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Colombia
Many often ignore the marginalization of the elderly in benighted areas of the world in favor of other more current events. This is a phenomenon affecting almost every developing nation. The increase in life expectancy around the world does not necessarily mean that people are living better quality lives, especially in countries without sufficient resources to care for their elderly population. Below is some information about elderly poverty in Colombia.

The Current Situation

Colombia is a country of roughly 50 million people and a growing elderly population. However, it only has 80 geriatric centers to attend to its senior demographic. Furthermore, only 28% of the total senior population in Colombia can access a center specializing in their medical needs. According to the Medical Department of La Sabana University, the remaining 72% of elders cannot access proper medical attention or a trained caregiver. Most of this demographic inhabits isolated rural areas where access to specialized centers is quite distant. Elderly poverty is an underlying issue in Colombia, and very few organizations have committed themselves to the improvement of this situation.

Impact on Income

Poverty not only impacts Colombia’s senior population medically but also financially. In fact, around 59% of people over 60 rely solely on the pension system and have no stable income source. The elderly poverty rate in Colombia has reached the second-highest in the region, behind Paraguay, almost doubling the Latin American average. Currently, it is the nation with the third-largest elderly population without an income. Furthermore, social and familial networks are not strong enough to care for their elderly, as the aging citizenry becomes a burden for their families and immediate circle. Because only 4% of citizens over 60 years old have a pension and their own source of income, most of them rely on their descendants to care for them. However, given that 9.8% of seniors live by themselves, some do not have familial ties that support them.

Even though the alarming data on elderly poverty is bleak, it informs governments on where to address the issue. They must attempt to invigorate the quality of senior life and provide easy access to pensions. In addition, the government must work to strengthen the geriatric medical sector’s training and outreach. When trying to solve this structural issue, families and communities must also enter into consideration. They are essential to providing elderly support, ultimately decreasing the chance that anyone over 60 feels burdensome

Colombia’s Actions

Colombia is following the example of Spain and Mexico in including its aging population in socio-economic life. It has employed and trained seniors to perform tasks and activities in sectors such as tourism, culture and entertainment, granting them a stable income and bettering living standards. Additionally, it is also increasing seniors’ quality of life as they stop feeling obsolete. Responsible government spending regarding the elderly and the civilian population’s inclusivity towards its aging citizens must accompany this “longevity revolution.” For example, Bogotá City Council created the Municipal Elderly Council back in 2015, a community-based organization focused on advising the Mayor’s office matters impacting seniors. The council represents the elderly; it has been a successful platform in promoting dialogue and advocacy for senior civil society.

Foundational Efforts to Combat Elderly Poverty Issues

Currently, two prominent organizations working to diminish elderly poverty in Colombia are the British NGO HelpAge and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). They are joining efforts to provide the elderly living in rural areas with humanitarian aid and psychosocial help from gerontology professionals. Both organizations have a commitment to working on-site in Colombia, in regions like Nariño and Valle, where armed conflict displaced over 400 seniors. HelpAge and AECID also provide legal aid to elders seeking to be indemnified because of their displacement.

Both foundations work hand-in-hand with Paz y Bien (Peace & Righteousness), a Colombian NGO in charge of aiding displaced elderly populations in precarious situations. Together, they discovered that householder mothers were willing to earn extra income by taking care of their communities’ elderly. Thus the foundations provided women proper training to care for seniors, not only to grant them basic medical attention but also to keep them company in a new community. This model benefits both parties, as they are able to form new societal ties. So far, this joint project has yielded excellent results over the last six years.

Many often ignore elderly poverty in Colombia to prioritize other issues, such as ending the six-year ongoing armed conflict. With the pension system’s flaws, it is crucial for civil society to keep taking action. With efforts to attend to elderly poverty in Colombia, the future is promising, as emerging projects create a more dignified life for seniors.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Health Barriers Faced by the Elderly in JamaicaIn line with the global aging population trend, Jamaica has seen a rapid increase in its elderly population. This increase is now calling for continued action to address the health barriers faced by the elderly in Jamaica.

An Aging Population

In 1995, Jamaica reported having 110,430 males and 130,020 females in the 60 years and older group. This represented 9.42% of the total population in the country. By 2001, Jamaica’s elderly population consisted of 122,844 males and 141,869 females. A decade later in 2011, the census reported that the number of individuals who were 60 years or older had risen to 145,204 males and 159,979 females. These numbers indicated a 15.2% increase in the total number of people who were 60 years or older from 2001 to 2011.

Additionally, by 2011, those in this age group accounted for a greater share of the dependency ratio, a ratio measuring the number of young (0-15 years) and old (60 years or older) people in a population compared with that of the working population.

The World Health Organization has stated that this older population is mostly affected by chronic non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and cancers. In 2018, Jamaica reported that 72% of elderly people had at least one chronic illness, with hypertension and diabetes being the most common. This contributes to the high percentage of people taking medication as well. Furthermore, persons over 60 years of age were much more likely to experience protracted illnesses in comparison to the rest of the population.

Healthcare Barriers

With recent progress in Jamaica’s life expectancy, the elderly are living longer. According to the World Health Organization, in 2018, the life expectancy for Jamaicans was 76.2 years. It is expected that these individuals will require more long-term care and rehabilitation services as they become increasingly vulnerable to diseases and lose physical or mental capacities.

However, there is limited access to local long-term care services in Jamaica and the number of caregivers has decreased throughout the country. Traditionally, younger Jamaicans would stay home and help care for older family members, but with the recent fall in family size resulting from a drastic drop in the fertility rate, the number of family members available to care for these individuals has significantly declined. The issue is worsened by the increasing number of young Jamaicans migrating abroad, typically to the United States, and leaving their older family members behind who frequently encounter difficulties in accessing rehabilitation services independently.

Financial Barriers to Healthcare

Many older Jamaicans also face financial barriers in accessing much needed medical treatment and services. While Jamaica has established a wide and extensive network of public primary care centers and hospitals offering free or low-cost services, the cost of medications and other health care resources has risen as most of these products are imported and the nation’s currency has undergone severe devaluation.

These financial burdens are especially felt by the country’s older population who rely on pensions to cover their living and health expenses. The Old Age Pension provided to qualifying retired Jamaicans is usually insufficient to cover the additional health costs associated with old age as the pensions do not adjust to meet the yearly changes in the cost of living.

Lack of Access to Healthcare in Rural Areas

Additionally, older Jamaicans living in rural areas experience significantly higher barriers to health as there is a lack of overall access to medical care, health and treatment services and transportation. A study conducted in 2012 found that people living in rural areas tend to have more “uncontrolled and undiagnosed disease,” evidenced by the fact that 27.5% of those surveyed who were diagnosed with high blood pressure had not previously received a diagnosis from a doctor. Furthermore, among those who had received a prior diagnosis, 72.2% had signs of the disease as being poorly controlled.

Also, health barriers are intensified by the fact that only 30% of the elderly population living in rural areas are pension recipients as compared to 44.4% in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. The elderly in rural areas also report having greater issues with food availability and adequacy as 53% stated not having easy access to the food they need.

Researchers Eldemire-Shearer, K Mitchell-Fearon and DL Holder-Nevins stated in 2014 that these difficulties in accessing treatment and food emphasize the health challenges that older Jamaicans face as the current health system is primarily engaged in reducing chronic disease and maintaining functional ability. They say a different approach is needed to better meet the new demands of older Jamaicans who suffer from prolonged mental or physical conditions.

Addressing Barriers

In 2018, the Jamaican government revised the National Policy for Senior Citizens, created in 1997, to introduce new measures for supporting and improving the quality of life for the elderly. The plan outlines a multi-stakeholder approach designed to address social, economic and health barriers faced by this fast-growing population.

The document promotes universal access to quality health care for all senior citizens and acknowledges the varying medical needs within this age group. It also calls for a greater expansion of health insurance coverage since only 23% of elderly people are insured.

Furthermore, the plan outlines steps for improving income security for all senior citizens and tasks the government with providing food assistance when necessary. It also provides detailed initiatives for expanding access to health resources, including mental health services, home and respite care, physiotherapy and other rehabilitation services. All these health resources for the elderly are to be carried out under the supervision of the National Council for Senior Citizens, which monitors and evaluates the progress of senior citizen programs at both the national and regional levels.

While the existing health care system will require the full implementation of all these measures in the coming years to combat the health barriers faced by the elderly in Jamaica, this policy plan offers a comprehensive guide to start addressing some of these challenges.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Russia
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the Soviet Union dissolved and the subsequent Russian Federation emerged. With nearly 20 million people living in poverty, the transition to a capitalist nation has certainly not been an easy one for Russia’s citizens. Before assessing the subject of elderly poverty in Russia, it may be helpful to explore some of the causes and consequences of pervasive poverty throughout the population.

Wealth Inequality is Rampant

While nearly 14% of its population lives below the poverty line, and 20-30% considers itself poor, Russia’s fiscal policy ultimately favors the rich. One may observe this in the fact that 50% of Russia’s pre-tax national income goes to the top 10%. Relative to the size of its economy, Russia has the highest number of billionaires compared to any other large country — its wealth stratification being the worst out of all the countries included in the World Inequality Database.

Russia is Relatively Unproductive

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Russia ranks 39th out of the 42 reported countries. One can attribute this to several consequences resulting from its state capitalism, which include weak institutions and corruption. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has fallen especially within the past few years after the implementation of sanctions following the annexation of Crimea. Moreover, Russia’s labor force is set to shrink between now and 2050 as a result of constraint in growth from its aging population — that being, more young people are leaving Russia while the elderly will require more comprehensive improvements in health care and long-term care.

Post-Soviet Hardship

After the economic collapses of 1991 and 1998, many Russians lost their life’s savings. The transition to a capitalist economic system has had a substantial negative effect on the older generation (age 50 and up), which represents nearly 35% of the population.

While much of the data reported on elderly poverty in Russia contradicts, reports have determined that upwards of 70% of aging couples are poor. Because of this, a justified concern exists around Russia’s consistently aging population, as it faces an even higher risk of poverty – invoking a necessity to investigate and address the country’s aging issue and economic instability.

Limited Public Assistance

According to the Global AgeWatch Index, Russia ranks 65th out of 96 countries when considering the population’s well-being, life expectancy and mental health. Furthermore, the pensions have neither kept up with inflation nor the country’s average earnings, as the average pensioner in Russia receives the equivalent of €180 per month – barely enough to live on.

Unfortunately, Russia has limited resources for the elderly who are either disabled or suffering from dementia and other ailments. Social services and state aid are often expensive and inaccessible to the older generation – wrapped up in a multitude of bureaucratic requirements. Those who do not have a family to receive care from often end up homeless or in nursing homes with “warehouse” conditions.

Bettering Conditions

Fortunately, organizations exist that are continuously working to improve the consequential conditions of elderly poverty in Russia. One such organization is Enjoyable Aging. The depressing conditions of poverty and loneliness in nursing homes in Russia struck Lisa Oleskina, who started the organization in 2006.

Today, Enjoyable Aging employs nurses who adopt a standard of individual care for elderly patients living in nursing homes. Loneliness is a serious concern for Russia’s elderly, and poverty can certainly exacerbate this issue. Enjoyable Aging combats loneliness through organizing events and regular correspondence with facility residents in more than 120 nursing homes in Russia.

Further Signs of Improvement

As with the rest of the world, Russia has faced an economic downturn amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with the nation’s unemployment rate increasing to its highest in eight years (6.3%). A recent spike in cases could potentially push the country into further economic turbulence that will have a substantial impact on the older generation. However, prior to the pandemic, Russia was on track to see long-term economic growth.

Although progress had been slow, the World Bank reported as recently as September 2020 on Russia’s promising improvements in its human capital development – most notably, the country’s reductions in adult and child mortality rates. Nevertheless, as the population’s average age continues to rise, a necessity to significantly improve funding for the country’s public health care remains. Prioritizing long-term physical and mental needs is essential to lift up the most vulnerable within a developing economy.

– Alessandra Parker
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in the Philippines
In 2020, the Department of Social Welfare and Development held a lecture on immunization and free pneumonia immunization. This is significant in a country with 18.2% of its citizens experiencing elderly poverty in the Philippines and unable to meet food needs. According to a study by the Tsao Foundation, more availability to community resources like vaccination drives could lead to a higher quality of life among the Filipino elderly.

The Lecture on Immunization and Free Pneumonia Immunization

In 2018, 16.6% of the Philippine population lived under the national poverty line, affirming the need for aid for elderly poverty in the Philippines. The lecture occurred in February 2020, some months before the World Bank predicted that elderly poverty in the Philippines would increase during the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020. Furthermore, in December 2020, an economist from the World Bank predicted that 2.7 million more people would become poor as a result of job losses and slower cash remittances due to the pandemic, or about 2% of the Philippines population.

The event makes vaccine information readily available to elderly citizens as Calabarzon, the location of the vaccine drive, is the number one region in the Philippines to have elderly residents, boasting over 1 million aged people, or 13.3% of the total population. One thousand senior citizens attended from 16 municipalities and seven cities of Cavite province in Calabarzon. This event is proactive and timely in light of the 57,809 lives lost in 2016 to pneumonia, almost 10% of total deaths according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

A 2016 initiative, the Expanded Pneumococcal Immunization Program for Senior Citizens, supports the event. It makes free pneumococcal vaccines available, mobilizes to reduce pneumonia among the elderly and encourages the public to obtain vaccinations. In particular, the program aims to protect Filipinos from the ages of 60-65.

Cavite Gov. Jonvic Joins Battle Against Vaccine Hesitancy

Although pneumonia is a vaccine-preventable disease, many Filipinos are still reluctant to receive vaccinations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019 was the refusal to vaccinate. Despite the availability of vaccines, hospitals did not vaccinate Filipinos due to hesitancy and the belief that vaccines are harmful. Elderly Filipinos are at particularly high risk because of compromised immune systems that cannot fend off the virus as easily.

The 2020 lecture, with the governor of Cavite Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla in attendance and the Department of Health assisting in its management, not only informed Filipino senior citizens of the life-saving benefits of exercising and eating healthy together with being vaccinated but also coordinated a ceremony in full with free vaccinations. The event made use of the catchphrase “Bakuna Muna: Dahil ang Bakunado, Protektado:” Vaccine First: Because of the Vaccine, (We Are) Protected.

The Philippines is Among the Slowest Aging Asian Countries

Most East Asian and Pacific countries are rapidly aging. In fact, more than 15% of the population in those countries is a senior citizen. The Philippines is among one of the two East Asian countries slowest to age. While estimates have determined that Vietnam will need 15 years for the older population to outpace younger citizens, the Philippines will require 30 years for the number of senior citizens to catch up.

Compared to Western countries, which will take 20 years for the number of aged citizens to increase 5.4% by 2030, predictions have determined that the most upcoming spike in the number of aged people in 15 years will be less than 4%. This is a rate of 0.0026 of the country’s citizens per year in the Philippines, less even than the United States’ 0.0027 per year.

With health care costs totaling up to $20 trillion total, the Philippines likely has more time to settle its finances and organize elderly support policies than most countries. More than in other Asian countries, elderly poverty in the Philippines has a window and leeway for more developed countries to provide aid.

Other Policies Aiding Elderly Poverty

Policies currently in place supporting elderly poverty in the Philippines include the Health and Wellness Plan for Senior Citizens (HWPSC), the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003 and the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. The HWPSC has the responsibility of reaching out to both national and local governments to provide logistical help and to assist program implementation. It also promises elderly citizens the care and attention they need to help them flourish and receive treatment.

The 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens (Republic Act 9994) Act is an amendment to a former health policy that aims to provide discounted pharmaceuticals and vaccines to senior citizens who cannot afford medical treatments. The Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9257), like the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, is an amendment to the same policy guaranteeing additional benefits such as a 20% discount on medical and dental services.

The Philippines is soon to have a 2 million increase in people suffering from poverty. Organizations like the Department of Social Welfare and Development and initiatives like the Health and Wellness Plan for Senior Citizens support these people by providing health aid to combat elderly poverty in the Philippines. Though the pandemic’s impact persists, the government is mobilizing services to improve conditions for the Philippines’ older people.

– Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Pexels

Elderly Poverty in New Zealand
Like many other countries in the developed world, New Zealand has an aging population. Projections have determined that by 2036, one in 4.5 New Zealanders will be 65 and older. Although the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique set of challenges for New Zealand’s elderly and exacerbated elderly poverty in New Zealand, programs exist to support this growing demographic.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 calls for an end to poverty in all forms. An important aspect of achieving this goal is addressing the specific issue of elderly poverty. The risk of falling into poverty increases with age because of a decreased ability to work, lack of savings and need for long-term care, among other factors. Public social security pensions and the availability of affordable health care are effective institutional solutions to respond to elderly poverty.

COVID-19 in New Zealand

In 2020, New Zealand has become the envy of the world for its swift and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recording only 25 deaths, daily life in New Zealand is essentially back to normal. However, the country’s elderly population suffered the most during the pandemic. They have died and become critically ill in greater numbers compared to other age groups. New Zealanders aged 60 and older account for 15.9% of all recorded COVID-19 cases in the country, and 23 of all COVID-19 deaths. Many of those deaths happened in residential care facilities that lacked adequate PPE, testing and training. In May 2020, the New Zealand Ministry of Health introduced a detailed questionnaire for clinical professionals to complete on behalf of new residents and residents returning from the community and hospitals to assess when they should receive a COVID-19 test. The Ministry of Health expects that this new measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in residential care facilities will reassure health care providers, residents and their families about the safety of these facilities.

Elderly Poverty in Indigenous Communities

Elderly poverty in New Zealand is prevalent in Māori communities. According to the UN expert on older people Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, older Māori living in both urban and rural areas are “extremely vulnerable and disadvantaged.” Reporter Jenny Ling writes about the “hidden homeless” of New Zealand’s Far North region. Here, many elderly Māori individuals live in conditions comparable to the developing world. Cardboard lines and corrugated metal panels line houses and are often without electricity or running water. Local nurse and businesswoman Rhonda Zielinski runs a program that provides cabins to these individuals who pay what they can each week, giving them a chance to become homeowners. At the time that Ling published her report, more than one dozen individuals received their own cabin, and more than 100 people were on the waiting list.

The Old-age Pensions Act

Multiple nationwide programs exist to respond to elderly poverty in New Zealand. In 1898, it led the world in championing the rights of the elderly by being the first country in the world to create a pension system that tax dollars funded via the Old-age Pensions Act. Then-Prime Minister Richard Seddon and his Liberal government approached this from the understanding that a country has the responsibility of providing for elderly citizens who cannot provide for themselves. Individuals aged 65 and older who have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years since they turned 20 qualify for old-age pension, although monthly payments may vary depending on factors such as relationship status and living situation.

KiwiSaver

In 2007, the New Zealand government introduced another program called KiwiSaver out of concern that New Zealanders were not saving enough money for retirement through private arrangements. KiwiSaver is a voluntary, government-subsidized program that allows both the KiwiSaver member and their employer to pay into it. Unlike old-age pensions, when KiwiSaver members withdraw their funds at age 65, they receive a lump sum, not monthly payments. KiwiSaver has had a positive impact on New Zealand’s economy as a whole, with 60% of its funds invested in the country and raising exports, employment, and GDP as a result.

The Better Later Life Strategy

Acknowledging the country’s shifting demographics and the challenges that many of its elderly individuals face, New Zealand’s Minister for Seniors, the Hon. Tracey Martin launched the Better Later Life Strategy in 2019. The principles of valuing people as they age, keeping people safe and embracing diversity guide the strategy. It also emphasizes the importance of collective responsibility and a whānau-centered (the Māori word for one’s extended family) approach to aging.

Local efforts such as the one created by Zielinski in the Far North, as well as the government strategies of their longstanding pension program, KiwiSaver, and the Better Late Life strategy, are all steps in the right direction to prevent elderly poverty in New Zealand, ensuring that all New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori alike, can age with dignity.

– Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

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