Elderly Poverty in Bulgaria
“Alone, vulnerable and deprived” is how Galena Stoyanova, a pensioner and lifelong lawyer in Bulgaria, describes living conditions for elderly people in the country, in an interview with The Borgen Project. According to data from the Bulgarian National Social Security Institute (NSSI) in 2021, the total number of pensioners in Bulgaria stood at a little more than 2 million and the average pension was 566 BGN (roughly $300) per month. Data from 2022 shows that 590,000 pensioners receive a pension of 370 BGN (about $200) or less per month. Efforts are underway to address elderly poverty in Bulgaria.

Poverty Among Pensioners

The rising cost of living makes it hard for retirees to keep up and aggravates elderly poverty in Bulgaria. Stoyanova shares that the entirety of the average pensioner’s income goes toward basic needs like food, household bills and medication. Some pensioners have to compromise their health, buying only medicine of the greatest need and not everything prescribed in order to cope with the rising cost of living.

Data by Eurostat reveals that, across the EU, Bulgaria had the highest rates of severe material and social deprivation for people aged 65 and older in 2020. The rate stood at 25.7% compared to an average of 16.5% for those aged between 18 and 64 in Bulgaria.

Political Instability

Stoyanova also says that the asset ceiling of pensions continues to rise while the minimum pension has not budged in years. The political instability and economic uncertainty Bulgaria faces exacerbate living conditions for all, including the elderly.

In June 2022, a no-confidence vote dissolved Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s government. The Petkov-led government stood in power for less than eight months, leading to a second parliamentary election in less than a year.

Bulgaria’s center-right GERB party, which has run the country for 12 years, assumed command once again but is the “target of widespread corruption accusations,” according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The shifts in the government lead to the economic instability that has an impact on elderly poverty in Bulgaria. The pension system is “fundamentally unstable” and recent pension reforms may worsen this. As an expert in the legal field, Stoyanova says elderly poverty in Bulgaria is an issue that politicians often overlook.

The Baba Residence

An initiative, the Baba Residence, which native Bulgarian Yani Taneva launched, aids isolated elderly people living in low-density villages by connecting them with urban youth. The project’s main goal is to engage young people’s entrepreneurial spirits and connect them with the traditional culture of the elderly by encouraging participants to spend a month living and learning in the villages. So far, the organization has managed to help more than 1,500 citizens across 36 villages.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Militsa Dzhandzhova, manager of the Baba Residence project, shares that project participants created strong bonds with locals and developed original business ideas.

Baba Residence Initiatives

Some of the initiatives include transforming a dysfunctional school into a community center that hosts local photography exhibitions, cooking festivals and textile fairs. The renovation helped bring people to the villages and tackled the isolation that the elderly experience by giving them the opportunity to showcase their skills and even earn money while doing so.

The organization has also helped locals and brought income to pensioners through “a social enterprise for the export of woven products” made by elderly female villagers, a “professional studio recording of a CD with folklore songs… from the Rhodope Mountains” and “many cleaned and newly marked mountain eco-trails” that bring tourists to the rural communities.

The business enterprises present an opportunity to bring a sustainable economic boost into the villages and find new ways to meet urgent needs. All the income the enterprises generate is distributed among the elderly people involved and the initiators of the projects.

Additionally, the campaign “One Percent Change,” introduced by participants, helps meet the basic needs of elderly people living in poverty. The participants installed new window frames in residences to retain heat in homes during the colder months (a total of 25 households benefited from the campaign). Furthermore, about 40 senior villagers received dental prostheses and the upcoming Christmas campaign will provide electronic appliances to 27 homes in Salash village. Overall, the campaigns tackle elderly poverty in Bulgaria and raise awareness of the issue.

Solidarity Between Generations

According to Dzhandzhova, the lack of interaction and engagement between the younger Bulgarian generation and the elderly turns poor people into isolated people.

In accordance with Dzhandzhova’s views, Stoyanova says that the elderly have been forgotten as most of Bulgaria’s youth have moved away from the country, causing demographic issues and leaving behind their compatriots to tackle corruption, injustice, inequality and poverty.

In 2022, the total number of elderly people living in poverty in Bulgaria is more than 306,000. For most of them, pensions play a key part in maintaining a good living standard and are their only source of income. Although initiatives like the Baba Residence certainly make an impact, lasting and significant improvements in the rates of elderly poverty in Bulgaria can only occur through comprehensive governmental policies and social programs that provide adequate support.

– Ralitsa Pashkuleva
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Nigeria
In 2018, older persons constituted 3.1% or 5.9 million of the population in Nigeria. A percentage of the elderly were dependent on the youths trying to survive in a country with a declining economy. The number of older persons in poverty has inevitably increased, as the World Bank projected the number of impoverished people in Nigeria to hit 95.1 million in 2022. This is an addition of 5 million people post-pandemic.

Problems of Elderly Poverty in Nigeria

In past years, many have referred to Nigeria as the Giant of Africa, a Giant that the poor inhabit. A majority of elderly people belong to this group. This stems from the inability of the government to pay pensions regularly to the retired workforce. As a result of the delay in pension payments, some elderly persons still engage in “mental and manual work.”

Some elderly persons resort to begging to survive, while others expect support from their friends, relatives and children. However, their children struggle to make end means for themselves due to the declining economy, so most shirk the responsibility or expectations of their parents.

Inadequate social services, health facilities and nonexistent social security are reasons why the elderly in Nigeria are vulnerable to poverty and diseases, according to an African Health Sciences article. They suffer hardship in an increasingly hostile, competitive and intolerant society. Alleviating old­-age poverty requires full hands involvement from other age groups.

Solutions

Premium Times Nigeria has proposed that the pending bill, Older Persons (Rights and Privileges), would address several social and economic challenges the elderly face. The policy sets to create an advisory council at the federal, state and local levels of government on matters about aging.

For the total eradication of elderly poverty in Nigeria, support has to come from family members and the Federal Government of Nigeria. Building affordable and sustainable health centers across communities and regions is a solution to alleviating elderly poverty in Nigeria. Centers that address ailment irrespective of the financial endowment could lessen the burden of various health changes attributed to aging, according to BellaNaija.

NGOs are at the forefront of eradicating elderly poverty in Nigeria, an example being DewDrop Foundation. DewDrop Foundation seeks to end elder abuse. The NGO provides caregivers to administer professional care to elderly persons who live away from family. The organization also encourages the older generation to form associations to help members in need. It encourages the general population of Nigeria to join the fight against elderly poverty in Nigeria.

In conclusion, other age groups and the government of Nigeria need to work together to eradicate elderly poverty. The masses influencing the government to review policies and bills concerning older persons is a solution to elderly poverty. Implementing this policy not only empowers the older people in Nigeria but also empowers their communities.

– Chinwendu Mgbeahuru
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Palestine
According to a 2021 report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), only 5% of the population in Palestine is 60 or older. The World Bank reports that Palestine’s poverty rate stood at 27.3% in 2021, a decrease of around 2% from the previous year when the economy deteriorated as a consequence of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elderly people have an increased risk of falling into poverty and the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates this vulnerability. The U.N. states that “in most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age.” OECD countries’ data from 2015 indicates that people in the age category of above 75 report poverty levels higher than those in the 66-75 age group. In 2017, the prevalence of elderly poverty in Palestine stood at 27%, equating to 5% of Palestine’s total number of impoverished persons.

4 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Palestine

  1. Uneven distribution. Elderly poverty in Palestine is not evenly distributed across the country. In fact, according to data gathered in 2017 by the PCBS, the percentage of older people living in poverty in the Gaza Strip stood at 47%, which is almost 29% more than in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip notes higher poverty rates in general due to the now 15-year-long Israel-led blockade of Gaza, which has brought severe economic and humanitarian consequences to Gaza.
  2. Low education levels contribute to elderly poverty. Slightly more than 40% of the elderly in Palestine have no educational attainment. Given the relationship between education and economic well-being, this could be one of the factors affecting the financial stability of older individuals in the country. Moreover, lack of education significantly affects the transmission of poverty from generation to generation and education is often a key determinant of financial success. PCBS data from 2019 shows that illiteracy rates are highest among the elderly age group of 65 and older.
  3. Lack of economic independence increases vulnerability to poverty. Another significant fact about the demographic profile of older individuals in Palestine is that only 13% of them engaged in employment in 2018, with a stark contrast between the West Bank (16%) and Gaza (7%). This suggests that a large majority of the elder community is not financially independent, making them more vulnerable to poverty. As a matter of fact, senior citizens in Palestine typically depend on other family members to meet their needs.
  4. Health and disability. Approximately 48% of Palestine’s elderly had to deal with at least one impairment or disability in 2020. Mobility difficulties are the most common, followed by visual impairments. In addition, “33% of the elderly in Palestine suffer from at least one chronic disease according to a medical diagnosis (36% in the West Bank and 27% in Gaza Strip).” For elderly people living in poverty, a lack of access to essential goods and services could easily exacerbate health conditions, PCBS reports.

Looking Ahead

A lack of adequate social safety nets exacerbates elderly poverty in Palestine. In 2020, following the negative impacts of the pandemic on the country, the U.N.’s Joint Sustainable Development Goal Fund, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) worked with the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development to improve the social protection system. The Joint SDG Fund says, “While the existing Palestinian social protection system is among the most advanced in the region, it is not sufficient to address the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” The collaboration aims to strengthen the social protection system and make it “more inclusive and accessible to older people, particularly women.”

In June 2022, Palestine’s GDP rose by 1.1%. A stronger financial performance may improve the living standards of the population overall.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Unsplash

Elderly Poverty in Pakistan
According to HelpAge International, in Pakistan, millions of elderly people endure conditions of poverty. In 2019, Pakistan had 15 million individuals over the age of 60, equating to 7% of the population. Though the elderly make up a smaller segment of the population now, projections indicate that the number of elderly people in Pakistan will rise to 40 million by 2050. In 2018, just “2.3% of the population older than the statutory pensionable age in Pakistan” received a pension. In the face of adversity, vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, suffer the most. For this reason, it is vital to address elderly poverty in Pakistan.

Floods in Pakistan

Recent floods in Pakistan have led to a humanitarian crisis. An October 2022 article by Arab News has indicated that, in flood-affected areas, almost 48% of Pakistani elders, according to a HelpAge International survey, lack access to health facilities.

The survey notes that close to 90% of the elderly “reported having a health condition, with 42[%] having more than one.” The survey lists the top six conditions affecting the elderly during the flooding as joint pains, high blood pressure, respiratory conditions, cardiac issues, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems.

Elderly Poverty in Pakistan

In Pakistan, as per the research of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, in 2001, about 37% of the elderly population lived either on or below the poverty line. Low-income elderly people tend to rely on their children, typically sons, for economic support and shelter as old-age homes do not form part of the country’s culture. Elderly people with lower incomes are more likely to live with their children but this rate is lower for elderly people with higher incomes.

Data from a 2001 survey shows that elderly poverty is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban areas. Almost 66% of the elder population resides in rural areas of Pakistan while 33% lives in urban areas. Rural elders are relatively worse off as towns and villages lack proper health care and facilities. About 45% of rural elders live below the poverty line compared to 23% of their urban counterparts. Urban elders have greater satisfaction with their living conditions as they have greater access to healthy food, electricity and clean water.

In 2001, about 19% of the elderly population in Pakistan engaged in employment. Out of the employed elderly segment, males accounted for 32% while females accounted for only 4.7%. Yet, statistics do not indicate that elderly poverty in Pakistan affects women disproportionally.

The literacy rate among the elderly stood at 23% in 2001. Male elderly literacy rates stood at 37% versus 8% among elderly women. These statistics reflect females’ lack of access to education while growing up, likely due to gender norms that prioritize the education of males as society expects females to manage household chores and caretaking.

National Policy for Elderly People

In 2014, Pakistan passed the Senior Citizens Act, which established the Senior Citizens Welfare Council. The council is responsible for advocating for the cause through policy proposals that aim to improve the well-being of the elderly. Pensions, old-age benefits, affordable transport and health facilities are part of the Act’s core agenda. Other provinces, such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan, established similar acts and councils to ensure a good quality of life for the elderly. For example, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Citizens Act ensures free access for the elderly to “public museums, libraries, parks and recreation facilities.” It also established separate counters for the elderly in hospitals and lower medical/medicinal rates.

HelpAge International

HelpAge is an international NGO that has worked in Pakistan since 2010. It advocates for the rights of the elderly in Pakistan and collaborates with more than 200 associations for older people in Pakistan. HelpAge responds to emergency situations and provides “age-friendly support” to elders. Up until now, in Pakistan, the organization has provided cash grants to 2,495 elderly individuals.

The HelpAge website tells the story of 60-year-old Atta Muhammad Birohi from Sindh. HelpAge gave him $135 as microcredit to establish an income-generating activity. Using the microcredit, Birohi purchased supplies to make roof beds, also known as pattrons. He sold these beds to generate an income, paid the microcredit loan back timeously and purchased a goat to bring in supplementary income.

HelpAge has also “provided assistive devices and physiotherapy services” to 1,507 elders in Pakistan. It is also advocating for income security through social pensions to alleviate elderly poverty in Pakistan. In this regard, it has proposed many reforms that are yet to materialize.

In a nutshell, the elderly population in Pakistan will likely rise in the coming years. To avoid rates of elderly poverty in Pakistan rising along with it, comprehensive social protection is necessary.

– Sarmad Wali Khan
Photo: Flickr

Cardboard Collectors in AsiaHong Kong and Singapore have a significant number of cardboard collectors who are mostly elderly people, struggling to make a small income by selling to recyclers. There are between 4,000 and 7,000 cardboard collectors in Hong Kong and in Singapore, 23% of people over 65 had incomes of less than $700 per month. Nonetheless, there is good news as several organizations are helping cardboard collectors in Asia improve their well-being.

Youth with a Mission (YWAM)

YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”)  is a global Christian family of ministries founded in 1960 working in more than 180 countries. Hong Kong’s YWAM chapter has launched “Shine Hong Kong,” which focuses on providing cardboard collectors with Shine Hong Kong Kits of helpful items including masks, hand sanitizer, food coupons and muscle balm. In addition to providing the collectors with the kits, the organization’s focus is for volunteers to interact with the collectors and show dignity and respect to a group of people who often go unnoticed.

Border Mission

Unlike YWAM, a global NGO, Border Mission is a small-scale organization. Founded by George Goh Ching Wah and Lysa Sumali, Border Mission operates in Singapore and in the Himilayas. Similar to YWAM, Border Mission strives to bring “hope to the unreached and forgotten.”

Border Mission observed that the cardboard collectors in Singapore, whom they call “urban recyclers,” struggle from receiving low prices for what they sell to recyclers. It views them as self-employed, hard-working seniors who deserve outside support. That’s why it launched its island-wide “Urban Recycler Project” in 2020.  The NGO not only provides urban recyclers with better trolleys but also educates them on selling different types of recyclable materials. The organization also advocates for higher prices for the recyclers’ collections. Its 1,000 youth volunteers delivered 100 four-wheel trolleys and one tricycle trolley in 2021.

V Cycle

V Cycle, a local Hong Kong social enterprise, works with businesses and schools to teach them how to better reduce and recycle waste, particularly plastic bottles. In addition to helping the environment, the organization also attempts to reduce elderly poverty by helping cardboard collectors. It focuses on conducting care visits and creating job opportunities for cardboard collectors.

Visiting elderly cardboard collectors is a step for volunteers to gain the elderly’s trust and build relationships with them. During each visit, volunteers ask the elderly about their physical and mental health, as well as the difficulties that they encounter. That way, V Cycle can tailor solutions to each person’s needs.

To create employment opportunities, V Cycle invites the elderly to work at the organization’s waste plants to organize and process plastic bottles. This allows the elderly to work in a safe and secure environment.

Happy People Helping People (HPHP)

Like its name, Happy People Helping People (HPHP), this Singaporean NGO helps needy elderly; happily and enthusiastically. HPHP is helping cardboard collectors by offering them food and friendship. In turn, this addresses the physical and emotional needs of the elderly. Founded by Mohammad Nafiz Kamarudin in 2013, the organization began with Happy Sundays; during the first Sunday of each month, volunteers made meals for the cardboard collectors. Then the organization realized that the cardboard collectors needed more so they worked with food stalls to provide one hot meal a day. HPHP now provides free hot meals to cardboard collectors using an app, Secondmeal.

Invented by a HPHP staff member, the app allows the needy elderly to collect the meals of their choice at food stalls participating in the project by scanning the meal cards provided to them each month. HPHP then pays for amounts shown on the app system at the end of each month. According to the founder of HPHP, Mohammad Nafiz Kamarudin, the elderly collect over $10,000 worth of meals every month. With Secondmeal, the elderly receive help in a dignified way.

Looking Forward: Helping Cardboard Collectors in Asia

It is common for impoverished elderly to become cardboard collectors in Hong Kong and Singapore. To address the issue, the four organizations helping cardboard collectors do so by making life easier for them in different ways. For instance, while YWAM distributes Shine Hong Kong care kits to the elderly, HPHP offers hot meals for them. Border Mission provides them with better trolleys and V Cycle volunteers conduct care visits. Nonetheless, each of these organizations shares the same belief and aim: cardboard collectors in Asia are a disadvantaged and neglected group that more able people can help.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in India
By 2027, India, the second most populated country in the world, will likely surpass China as the world’s most populated country by adding around 273 million people to its existing population, according to a U.N. report in 2019. Accordingly, the elderly population of India would also increase over the period – from 138 million in 2021 to 194 million in 2031 – the National Statistical Office (NSO) reported. With this growing elderly population, elderly poverty has become a pressing social issue in the country. In a report that the Agewell Foundation in 2021 produced, more than 90 million of the Indian elderly do not have financial security. This article will explore the reasons for elderly poverty in India and some initiatives of the Indian government.

Reasons for Elderly Poverty in India

For elderly Indians, the three important reasons contributing to their poverty are the incomplete welfare system, new family structure and social disparity. Incomplete welfare system for the elderly – While the social welfare system is essential for the elderly to access comfort, not all Indian elder citizens can enjoy that. The main issue of the system is that it does not provide affordable health care. Some reasons for elderly poverty in India are:

  • New Family Structure – The traditional joint family structure in Indian society is fundamental in protecting the economic and social security of elderly citizens. In other words, for Indians, looking after the elderly was previously a value and norm. However, as society developed and people became more occupied, this changed the Indian elderly’s living conditions – more elderly living alone instead of having a family member to take care of them. According to a study by Dr. Abhay B Mane, the number of Indian elderly living by themselves or with their partners increased from 9% in 1992 to 18.7% in 2006.
  • Social Disparity – In India, elderly poverty tends to fall upon women more than men, in particular, women who are widowed. In the World Widows Report from the Loomba Foundation in 2015, there are nearly five crores of widowed women in India. These women suffer discrimination and marginalization in society, contributing to their economic vulnerability. Moreover, due to the lack of access to education for Indian women, this turns into a disadvantage for them when they turn old, increasing their chances of having poorer lives than men. According to a study by Rossella Calvi, poverty rates are 80% less among elderly men than women in India.

Indian Government’s Initiatives

While elderly poverty in India is a tricky issue to solve, the government is attempting to improve the situation of the senior population. Here are some of its initiatives:

  • National Program for Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE) – In 2010, the government implemented the program to deliver an accessible, affordable and dedicated healthcare system to elderly citizens at different levels, for instance, daycare services, rehabilitative services and home care services. In addition, the government also hoped to highlight two concepts in Indian society: healthy aging and activeness.
  • National Action Plan for Senior Citizens ( NAPSrC) – The government drafted the scheme in 2019. It set out the objective to improve the well-being of elderly Indians by providing them with dignified lives. To achieve this aim, government officials planned a series of activities. For example, the program resulted in the building of some extra homes with essential amenities for the elderly to ensure the quality of their lives. According to the Indian government’s report, the objective was an independent task for the central government or collaboration by the central and state governments to achieve.

The Results of the Initiatives

Both schemes achieved important progress. Here are some details about their accomplishments:

  • NPHCE – According to the website of the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, under this program, 8,300 elderly received home-based care services; 29,601 and 69,339 elderly received physiotherapy services from district hospitals and community health services, respectively.
  • NAPSrC – The Indian government launched the drafted scheme in 2019. For the financial years 2020 and 2021, the government announced that it would spend approximately RS 200 crore as the budget provision for the scheme, according to the NAPSrC’s report in 2020.

Overall, while elderly poverty is a pressing issue in India, the Indian government has come up with different solutions such as the NPHCE and NAPSrC schemes. Both have the same intention – to improve the quality of life of the elderly.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Flickr

Hierarchy in South Korea
South Korea has a highly developed economy and hard-working citizens and many know it for its evolution from a developing nation to an advanced state within a few generations. South Korea’s citizens follow the country’s intense work ethic, which allows its cities, such as the famous capital city Seoul, to continue their progress in technological advancement. Although one can see the results of the South Korean hustle through the maturation of its economy in recent history, the hierarchy in South Korea has also had damaging effects on young workers and the elderly.

Corporate Culture in South Korea

Corporate culture in South Korea centers around hierarchy, in which your age and status are crucial. The work-life balance is unstable, as late at night, managers will often ask employees to come in early the next day or to finish work when they are not on the clock. However, while it is acceptable for employees to refuse this extra work, employees who comply often receive superior treatment. Around the world, within corporate culture, higher compensation usually follows greater responsibility and vice versa. However, within the hierarchy in South Korea, others expect employees with lower status to work harder to help those above them. Stagnant wages, which are highly dependent on long-term loyalty to the company, paired with long working hours pose a challenge to young professionals trying to afford a living.

One can consider some young employees predisposed to elderly poverty, as income inequality in the first half of their working years makes retirement planning extremely difficult.

Additionally, it is common for bosses to pressure employees to go out for food and drinks after the office closes, staying long past office hours. Oftentimes, this leads to unproductive mornings since the lively night before might have included drinking and socializing.

In general, lower productivity commonly results in less consumption, as the economy is not able to consume and produce services for the same quantity of labor. Because some employers value looking busy rather than true productivity, productivity within Korea has struggled.

Elderly Poverty

Despite one’s age being a factor within the hierarchy, surprisingly half of the South Korean elderly live in poverty. In 2020, 40.4% of South Koreans 66 years or older were living in poverty.

Due to South Korea’s aging population, experts believe that nearly one in two people living in poverty in the future will be elderly.

One crucial reason for this is that the younger generation cannot support their parents and South Korean corporate culture contributes to this issue. Hustle culture in South Korea generally requires employees to work longer hours than in comparison with other countries within the Organization For Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Average working hours in Korea are 17% higher than the OECD average.

With the westernization of the Korean workplace and subsequent family expectations, the younger generation is less inclined to live with their parents to support them. In 1994, 54.7% of elderly people lived with their children, however, this number decreased to 23.7% by 2017.

Aside from the inability of young professionals to care for their parents, increasing poverty among the elderly is due to the structure of the salary system within the corporate culture. Hierarchy dictates that salary increases based on how many years a loyal employee has worked for the company. Although those within the system receive more respect, the higher salaries to the older working generation incentivize companies to encourage early retirement.

Government pensions following retirement only amount to $200. According to the National Pension Research Institute Survey, this is just a quarter of what is necessary for single households. In addition, pensions only go to 35% of the elderly population.

Alleviating Stress

Despite the harm that arises from longer working hours, South Korea hit an all-time high in productivity in 2020. Recently, many corporations have shortened working hours so that employees may have a better work-life balance. Millie, a book firm, as well as e-commerce company Cafe24, implemented a four-day work week to reduce worker fatigue. In addition, some airlines and duty-free stores have followed suit. To measure the opinions of the working citizens, surveyors asked 1,164 office workers how a four-day work week would benefit them; half of the participants claimed that fewer hours would result in self-improvement. When the surveyors asked what the office workers would first do with their new free time, 44.5% asserted that they would try a new hobby.

Reducing obstacles to the elderly will immensely bolster the workforce and improve productivity, while actively fighting discrimination and reducing elderly poverty. Among surveyed Koreans aged 40-50, 64.9% believed that reserving more jobs for the elderly would best reduce elderly poverty. The Aged Employment Promotion Act of 2003 aimed incentives at companies to increase the employment of the elderly. Many agree that the proliferation of these policies will alleviate poverty among the aging.

Caroline Zientek
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in UkraineAmid the destruction that Russian troops have wreaked on Ukraine lies a forgotten demographic that has been forced to bear the brunt of Russian aggression: the elderly. As Russia continues to target healthcare facilities, apartment complexes and power plants, access to food, shelter and electricity is now elusive. Poverty among the elderly is more pernicious than it has ever been. Today, senior citizens represent one-third of all Ukrainians in need of dire assistance: 91% of elderly Ukrainians require aid to get food and are suffering from extreme cold while 75% need basic hygiene items and 34% need urgent medication for chronic illness.

A Legacy of Poverty

Elderly poverty in Ukraine is not a novel issue. Although Ukrainian citizens aged 65 and over represent 17% of the nation’s population, their plight has been largely overlooked. The collapse of the Soviet Union left in its wake a pension system that hinged on contributions from the steadily declining working class, which condemns 80% of pensioners to live below the poverty line as Ukraine’s population dropped every year.

The inaccessibility of essential services, pharmacies, hospitals and grocery stores as a direct result of the war has only exacerbated the struggle of the elders who have already been denied access to these basic necessities. Disabilities and chronic illness obstruct them from evacuating to safety, and for many the fear of burdening their families has compelled them to remain in a war zone with little to no companionship or support network as their loved ones flee the country.

Organizations Aiding Ukrainian Elders

Global initiatives are rising to the challenge. HelpAge International is a network of organizations that advocate for senior citizens around the world. The network has continued to support elderly Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine since the dawn of the war in Donbas in 2014, supplying almost 5,000 older community members with peer-to-peer support, assistive devices, hygiene kids and home-based care.

In partnership with People in Need, CARE is a global organization with a commitment to “fight global poverty and world hunger by working alongside women and girls”. The partnership resulted in the founding of the Ukraine Crisis Fund which aims to provide at least four million vulnerable civilians affected by the Russo-Ukrainian War with emergency assistance. This includes food, water and hygiene supplies, as well as cash support and psychosocial aid. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is helping elders recover shelter by helping to mend homes shelled by Russian airstrikes. Finally, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are working tirelessly to protect elderly citizens and all of Ukraine’s people. Their official fundraising account proves an effective way to improve Ukraine’s defense capability even from overseas.

Although war continues to rage, not all hope is lost. According to information services company Candid, which tracks funding data in real time, more than $1.3 billion has been donated to Ukraine through non-profits. Though it will take years for life to return to normal and even more years for elderly poverty in Ukraine to be remedied, the aid of the international community demonstrates that such change is indeed possible.

A Look Ahead

While recent airstrikes in Dnipro and Mykolaiv suggest that the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is far from over, new defense systems supplied by Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have already boosted Ukraine’s ability to disrupt Russian missiles. Thanks to the new developments, the elderly can be better taken care of as their homeland becomes better fortified. Though poverty among the elderly continues to plague Ukraine, recent improvements to Ukraine’s national security as well as the work of NGOs and nonprofits make a future where this issue is no longer a death sentence.

– Stefania Bielkina
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Israel
Elderly poverty in Israel has sharply declined over the last 20 years. The percentage of households below the poverty line that have a retirement-age head of the household has dropped from 27% in 1997 to 20% in 2011. One reason for this change is due to the welfare legislation laws passed in favor of elderly citizens. Coupled with, “social strategies,” such as living with younger, employed family members, the state of Israel can ensure its elderly population maintains a comfortable standard of living. The gross monthly income of households with retirement-age family members has increased from $3,948 in 1997 to $5,476 in 2011.

An Allowance

According to Ayal Kimhi, researcher and professor at the Hebrew University, “there is a general consensus that the elderly population is entitled to assistance.”

Elderly citizens who live with younger, employed family members are more likely to avoid poverty, because, when joined as one household, they will receive a higher income rate as opposed to an elderly citizen living on their own. Elderly individuals that live with younger family members have three sources of income: government support in the form of an old-age-benefit allowance, employment pensions and income from employed family members.

The percentage of elderly Israelis living in households that receive income from employment pensions increased from 48% in 1999 to 51% in 2011. Due to a rise in income among the elderly population, largely thanks to the old-age benefits allowance, elderly poverty in Israel is decreasing.

“In practice, poverty rates among those entitled to pensions are extremely low,” according to researchers Haya Stier and Haim Bleikh. Israel legislates that the elderly population receives “a minimum level of income.” Therefore, in addition to pensions received from employment, Israeli people of retirement age receive an old-age pension. Income from pension plans serves as a safety net for retired individuals to ensure that they can still live in comfort outside of employment.

The History Behind Legislation

As of 1980, “awareness of needs of the large and rapidly growing group of elderly population intensified.” As a result, Israel instilled new welfare laws and services. The new order specified that, legally, Israel had to provide a minimum income for the elderly population. Thanks to the National Insurance Institute (NII), the elderly population in Israel has been guaranteed a level of income that will allow them to still engage in day-to-day activities. However, there are a number of eligibility requirements.

In addition to a required income for the elderly population, Israel passed the National Health Care Law in 1995, guaranteeing all citizens health care coverage no matter their socio-economic status. This law covers ambulance and hospital services for all Israeli citizens as well as medication. About 30% of the national health care services budget goes toward addressing the health needs of elderly Israeli citizens.

Israel, through the introduction of these welfare acts, aimed to ensure that elderly citizens could “continue living in their own homes and communities as long as possible.” Israel also established public and private housing for independent elderly citizens. The elderly citizens who reside in these shelters are not in need of many services.

Finally, in 1998, Israel passed the Nursing Law, which sought to provide for elderly citizens struggling to engage in “activities of daily living (ADL).” The Nursing Law allows these citizens to “receive up to 16 hours a week of help” directly in their homes. Trained caregivers help with “personal needs as well as cooking, house cleaning and shopping.”

Looking Ahead

Elderly poverty in Israel has been on the decline since the passing of welfare laws in the 1980s. Thanks to the Israeli government and new social standards, the elderly population in Israel is guaranteed to live comfortably whether with their younger and still employed family members or independently. Israel is addressing elderly poverty within the nation and the gap of impoverishment between the elderly and the young has been closing over the past 20 years.

– Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr

Elderly poverty in SpainMillions of tourists visit Spain each year, experiencing the country’s rich culture and beautiful architecture. On the surface, Spain might seem like a perfect place, an escape from everyday hardship. But, deeper down, the country is not immune from economic troubles as poverty marches through Spain. The nation’s problem with poverty is especially relevant for the country’s senior citizens. Elderly poverty in Spain threatens the well-being of the nation’s seniors, and recent events might exacerbate this problem.

The Current Problem

Most recently, people in Spain are experiencing higher poverty rates due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences. Although the nation’s pension system works to keep millions of older people out of poverty, it is still critical to recognize poverty’s impact on the most vulnerable elders.

Even though state-provided pensions help curtail old-age poverty, 20.5% of Spanish seniors are at risk of poverty and exclusion. Many elders receive incomes below the poverty threshold, which leads to unnecessary hardship for the aging population. Spain’s social safety net is a helpful tool in the war against poverty. However, many elders still lack adequate resources to thwart economic hardship completely.

It is worth noting that Spain is doing relatively well compared to the rest of the world. The Global AgeWatch Index ranked Spain as the 25th best nation for elders’ social and economic well-being in 2015. Additionally, only 9.4% of individuals aged over 65 live in relative income poverty in Spain compared to 13.5% for the average OECD nation.

Gender Inequities

Spain’s problem with old-age poverty might appear relatively better off than many other nations. However, there are entrenched inequities, particularly those based on gender.

There are 10.6% of older Spanish women with income poverty rate. Compared to 7.8% of men, this gender gap persists despite any progress to reduce elderly poverty. Two primary contributors to this discrepancy are women’s, on average, lower lifetime earnings and higher life expectancy, according to OECD.

Changing Demographics

Interestingly, elderly poverty in Spain is lower than the poverty rate for the total population, which stands at 15.5%, according to the OECD. In this case, while one might think that Madrid may shift its attention to the poverty facing young adults, the well-being of elders faces a precarious trajectory given changes in demographics.

Spain’s life expectancy is on the rise with an average of 84 years, three years higher than the OECD average. Its fertility rate is also reaching new lows with only 1.2 births per woman. The nation’s high life expectancy and low fertility rates work in tandem to spell out a disaster for old-age poverty. A growing population of elders threatens the stability of old-age pensions since fewer workers will be supporting the elder safety net. With a lower ratio of workers to retirees, the Spanish economy will suffer trying to keep up with the burden of paying for more expensive social insurance.

These changing demographics will have a disproportionate impact on its rural residents. With more elders in Spain’s rural towns and villages, the fight to eliminate old-age poverty tackles a new obstacle: an isolated aging population.

Rural areas already have reduced access to stable health infrastructure and as senior residents get older, many Spaniards will be unable to drive to necessary facilities, according to the European Anti Poverty Network. This inequity in access forewarns higher poverty rates, lower well-being and increased social isolation for vulnerable elders. Without easily accessible resources, rural Spanish elders will suffer.

Novel Threats

The COVID-19 pandemic pinpointed the weaknesses in Spain’s care for the elderly. Notably, many hospitals refused to provide care for seniors and many nursing homes lacked the resources to navigate the pandemic.

Even though COVID-19 cases have fallen from their peak, pandemic-related issues may aggravate elderly poverty in Spain. The resulting economic instability risks growing inflation, diluting the purchasing power of elders.

Spain’s inflation reached 10.2% in June 2022 and this high number does not bode well for senior citizens. Higher inflation weakens the purchasing power of government-paid pensions for the elderly, which may reverse the tide in reducing old-age poverty.

Crafting Solutions

The news on Spain’s poverty rate may seem bleak, however, the public and private sectors could help present new solutions to continue mitigating old-age poverty. Reducing elderly poverty in Spain could emerge from a wide array of tactics. For instance, the government could increase investments in the social safety net, ensuring higher purchasing power for elders receiving pensions.

Additionally, new independent initiatives could target increasing accessibility to proper resources by bridging the digital divide and expanding access to high-quality health infrastructure to safeguard elders from falling into poverty. The next steps in this fight could aim to combat inequities in elderly poverty, especially for women and rural residents.

The work of non-governmental organizations like United Way Spain offers hope for Spain’s impoverished elderly. Starting in 2016, United Way Spain aids the country’s most vulnerable citizens with projects focused on education, health and employability. The organization’s MENCÍA Program operates to combat elder loneliness, bringing in volunteers to accompany seniors, assist in daily tasks and foster intergenerational connections.

Working exclusively on the local level, United Way Spain is bettering the lives of its most vulnerable elders by crafting new initiatives to advance the prosperity of its elders.

Even though Spain may already be ahead of most of the world in tackling elderly poverty, many efforts are still needed to eradicate global poverty. Supporting the work of an NGO like United Way Spain showcases one of the many ways to get involved in the fight against elderly poverty.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Unsplash