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

Elderly Poverty in El Salvador
El Salvador is one of the most densely populated countries in Central America. Salvadoran elders represent almost 12% of the population, according to their Ministry of Health. Of 1.2 million elders, only 200,000 receive a pension. The latter prompts a situation where abandoned elders enter poverty. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the country’s economic growth, decreasing GDP by 8.9%. Together with existing factors, there is soon likely to be extreme elderly poverty in El Salvador.

El Salvador’s Pensionary System

El Salvador’s pensionary system consists of a privately defined contribution scheme, constructed by the employer and the employee’s contributions, according to the OCDE. However, it does not guarantee a stable future for elders. Often, their life earnings are insufficient to fulfill their basic needs throughout their lives. 

Abandoned Elders

Juan Lainez, 83, is the owner of an ambulant shop at the sidewalk of Rosales Hospital, in San Salvador. For 21 years, he has woken up at 7 a.m. to sell purses and accessories to pedestrians. He used to work at a dairy company, but after retirement, he has no access to Social Security or to the pensionary system. Many third-age Salvadorians face his situation. Individuals facing elderly poverty in El Salvador beg for money on the streets, while others live in public homes for abandoned elders.

Organizations Fighting Elderly Poverty in El Salvador

Stories such as Lainez’s have triggered Salvadorians into action. Our Lady of Peace Home for Abandoned Elders receives visitors who donate food and cleaning materials. Some initiatives come from Salvadoran enterprises and others come from particulars. Our Lady of Peace houses 40 elders and it does not receive fixed donations. Some elders pay a symbolic amount, while the organization rescued others from the streets. 

The nonprofit organization Touching Hearts works has the motto that “if you cannot feed 100 people, then feed [one].” The Borgen Project spoke to Cristina Hauener, a member of the organization. Hauener explained that the project began as a family initiative and then expanded to close friends, volunteers and donors. “Three years ago, I visited the Bloom public hospital and overheard a conversation. It was a mother asking her neighbor to buy 25 cents worth of tortillas to feed her children, who were home alone without a meal. As a mother, those words shook me. I have never lacked a meal and it was so hard to see how several Salvadorians had nothing to eat,” Hauener confessed. Touching Hearts aims to provide food for people in extreme poverty.

In the beginning, the organization gave donations to the Bloom hospital and to a home for kids with cerebral palsy. As donations grew, the project focused on feeding abandoned elders. The organization members gathered every Monday to prepare the meals: “As in the human body, each member fulfills his function. Some cook the meals, some pack and others distribute and visit the elders,” she listed.

Elderly poverty in El Salvador is a growing social issue. However, small-scale initiatives are making progress with whatever is in their reach.

Paola Arriaza Avilés
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

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