Elderly Poverty in NepalNepal, nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, captivates with its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural tapestry and spiritual heritage. Home to Mount Everest, diverse ethnic groups and ancient temples, this South Asian nation invites exploration of its natural wonders and the warmth of its people. 

However, the elderly poverty situation in Nepal unveils a poignant narrative of economic vulnerability and social intricacies affecting its aging population. Exploring the nuanced facets of elderly poverty in Nepal sheds light on the imperative for targeted interventions and policies to ensure dignified lives for its senior citizens. Below are five facts about elderly poverty in Nepal.

5 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Nepal

  1. Rising Elderly Population and Migrating Younger Generation: Nepal has a rapidly growing elderly population, with seniors accounting for around 10.21% of the total population in 2021. This is a 38.2% increase compared to the 2011 census. More than 80% of Nepalese seniors depend on their children for support. However, youths from 47% of Nepalese households have migrated abroad in search of better economic opportunities, leaving elderly family members behind to shoulder the family’s social, financial and physical responsibilities with reduced support.
  2. Limited Pension Coverage and Poor Social Safety Nets: While non-contributory social pensions have been a blessing for some Nepalese seniors, barriers such as geographic, poor infrastructure and limited awareness about available social welfare programs for the elderly can make it difficult for seniors to access essential services and markets, resulting in underutilization of available resources and benefits. Additionally, the absence of comprehensive social safety nets further complicates the situation. While Nepal has implemented unique social pensions such as the Old Age Allowance (OAA), the intended results of such pensions have fallen short. For example, a study on the OAA found that 61.7 % of OAA beneficiaries were dissatisfied with the cumulative allowance.
  3. Area and Gender Disparities: More than 85% of older adults live in rural or economically disadvantaged regions of Nepal. The multifaceted struggle for the elderly population is more pronounced in these rural areas, where access to basic services and economic opportunities is often limited. Seniors often face high health care costs that can deplete their limited financial resources. For example, a study conducted on malnutrition among the elderly in the Kavre district of Nepal found that 49.7% of the elderly faced the risk of malnutrition, with malnutrition prevalence being higher among females at 15%, compared to males at 8%.
  4. Illiteracy: Illiteracy and poverty share an intertwined relationship, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage. Limited access to education hinders individuals from acquiring essential skills and knowledge, severely limiting their employment prospects and income potential. Without the ability to read, write, or comprehend information, economic opportunities remain restricted, reinforcing the barriers to escape poverty. Illiterate individuals often lack awareness of available social welfare programs, further marginalizing them from support systems. A survey found that the literacy rate for older adults in Nepal was 27% for males and only 4% for females.
  5. Elderly Abuse: Despite a large portion of the elderly being dependent on their family, elderly abuse silently festers in Nepal, a distressing concern demanding urgent attention. Abuse, in this case, is not limited to physical abuse and also includes neglect, financial abuse and psychological or emotional abuse. A study on elderly abuse in Nepal concluded that 54.5% of the elderly experienced some form of abuse, with neglect being the most common form at 23.1%, followed closely by psychological abuse at 20.6%.


Current solutions to elderly poverty include international and local efforts and ongoing research.

  • International efforts: Many international organizations, including the UN and its affiliated organizations, are involved in the fight against elderly poverty in developing countries. However, there are specific organizations aiding the elderly. For example, Help Age International aims to aid 8,000 elderly citizens with access to their basic needs. Additionally, aid from Western economies has made a significant impact on alleviating poverty. For example, the U.K.’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) support has spent £897,549,791 on cultural and educational development projects.
  • Local efforts: NGOs based solely in Nepal have focused on specific sectors that may aid in poverty reduction. For example, Volunteers Initiative Nepal has assisted 25,113 beneficiaries through its Women’s Empowerment Program and 143,842 beneficiaries through its Public Health and Medical Care Program
  • Future research: Many scholars have been researching aging trends in Nepal, and some have noted that technology can be an important tool, as the introduction of schemes such as Mobile Money Cash Transfers can overcome the physical distance hindrance and deliver the OAA on time to elderly individuals in remote areas.

Looking Ahead

Elderly poverty in Nepal presents a pressing and complex challenge. With a growing senior population and limited social safety nets, many elderly individuals find themselves grappling with financial insecurity and inadequate access to health care. The interplay of insufficient pension systems, lack of family support and limited employment opportunities exacerbate their vulnerability. 

Addressing elderly poverty requires comprehensive policies that ensure equitable access to essential services, foster intergenerational support and promote sustainable livelihoods. By recognizing the unique needs of Nepal’s elderly population, the Nepalese government and other organizations can work towards alleviating their plight and enhancing their quality of life.

Piyush Plabon Das
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in the Dominican RepublicElderly poverty is a growing concern in the Dominican Republic, as the elderly population continues to expand. With the advantages of modernization and economic growth, the average life expectancy in the Dominican Republic has increased significantly from 40 to 70 years between 1960 and 2020. However, this remarkable increase in life expectancy has not been matched by adequate social welfare systems for the elderly.

As the elderly population grows, the financial strain on existing government and family support systems also increases. Here is some information about elderly poverty in the Dominican Republic and what some are doing to combat it.

Familial Care

The growing number of people aged 60 and over is a matter of concern when considering the steady decline in the Dominican Republic’s birth rate over the past decade (from 21.8 in 2011 to 18.4 in 2021).

In the Dominican Republic, the culture places significant value on the care of the elderly, with much of the social welfare coming from families. However, the decreasing birth rate and the increasing number of elderly individuals create a significant imbalance that could strain the financial security of the elderly in the future. With families having more elderly members to care for and fewer working-age members to support them, there may be an increased financial burden on both families and the elderly, which could lead to higher poverty rates for both groups.

The Systems in Place

The growing elderly population in the Dominican Republic highlights the need for the country’s pension and elderly care systems to undergo significant changes and receive increased funding.

Of the population aged 80 and over in the Dominican Republic, only 9.3% receive income from their pensions, while 46% rely on financial support from their families. Overall, only 18% of those who are economically active benefit from pension plans. This leaves a significant portion of the elderly population without access to documented financial support. These undocumented elderly individuals often lack the legal status required to receive pensions due to issues like unofficial residency or involvement in the informal economy, which is not part of the government-monitored social welfare system for the elderly.

The shortage of trained caregivers and a lack of affordable care homes are contributing to the poverty issue among the elderly. Families that cannot afford professional elderly care often assume the responsibility themselves, which can place a financial burden on them. With around 40% of Dominicans living in precarious situations, vulnerable to climate-related issues and economic instability, these additional financial strains can exacerbate poverty rates among the elderly and the broader population. Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensuring the well-being of the elderly in the Dominican Republic.

Looking Ahead

The Dominican Republic has seen a significant increase in its elderly population, which reflects improved health care and economic conditions over the past eight decades. However, this demographic shift presents new challenges in terms of providing support and ensuring social welfare for the elderly. Taking proactive measures to address these challenges before the elderly population grows even larger can help prevent elderly poverty in the Dominican Republic. Additionally, providing relief to the country to assist those experiencing extreme poverty, often intertwined with the elderly population, can make a significant impact.

– Chinua Ebereonwu
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in VenezuelaCurrently, almost 90% of Venezuelans more than the age of 60 are living below the world poverty line. While economic hardship is a widespread issue amongst all of the nation’s demographics, elderly poverty in Venezuela is a disproportionate problem. 

Underlying Causes and Exacerbating Factors

Since 2014, Venezuela has faced massive economic decline due to political corruption and fossil fuel reliance, yielding devastating effects on the nation’s elderly population. Over the past decade, Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, has experienced an estimated 1 million percent inflation rate, making it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to afford the goods and services necessary for survival, such as food and health care. 

These levels of inflation led to a mass exodus of more than 7 million Venezuelans – approximately 20% of the nation’s population – out of the country in search of better economic conditions and employment opportunities. As the majority of people fleeing the country were of working age, this left many seniors who decided to stay without younger relatives to care for them as they age. 

Although Venezuelans who are 65 and older have been following their families out of the country at increasing rates within the past few years, there are still plenty of elderly adults who are too weak to make the journey beyond the nation’s borders. For the senior citizens who remain in Venezuela, life is challenging, as the government lacks adequate policies and funding to care for its aging citizens.

The Current Situation

Like many nations, Venezuela maintains a government-funded old-age pension program that provides elderly individuals with a source of income after they retire from the workforce. Yet, the monthly pension that the government offers to elderly Venezuelans is essentially impossible to survive on, with each check equating to around $2.40. This $2.40 per month has already been adjusted to factor in the nation’s current inflation rate, with seniors having received less than $1 per month before May 2021. This meager monthly pension has forced many elderly Venezuelans to continue working in spite of their increasing age, and in many cases for elderly individuals who are too weak or too sick to work, to sell their possessions or beg on the streets. 

As of 2020, three in five Venezuelan seniors report going to bed hungry, and a shocking 95% of Venezuelan seniors report not having enough food on a daily basis. The Venezuelan government does have subsidized funds for community-based food distribution systems throughout the country known as Local Committees for Supply and Production. However, the food provided by these committees is generally not nutritionally dense and arrives sporadically for elderly individuals who are unable to leave the house and require their food to be delivered. 

Aside from food insecurity, there are also many obstacles preventing adequate health care for elderly Venezuelans including inflated prices and shortages of vital medications. Approximately 84% of Venezuelan seniors suffer from a chronic illness that requires medication, yet 75% of these seniors say that they are unable to access the medications or medical care that they need.   

Ongoing Efforts to Help Venezuela’s Elderly?

The European Commission has played a significant role in providing humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and has particularly focused on reaching the country’s most vulnerable populations including young children, pregnant women and the elderly. Since 2016, the European Commission has provided Venezuela with approximately  390 million of humanitarian aid,  75 million of which has been allocated throughout 2023. Improving food security, access to medical care and access to clean water are the top priorities for the European Commission’s work in Venezuela, and the organization continues to use its funds to provide Venezuela’s most vulnerable with critical medications, water purification equipment and nutrient-dense foods. 

Working specifically for Venezuela’s elderly is Help Age International, a non-governmental organization whose goal is to “improve the lives of older [individuals] in low-and middle-income countries” through advocacy and research, as well as direct humanitarian aid initiatives. In 2016, Help Age International formed a partnership with the Venezuelan humanitarian organization Convite in order to raise international awareness about the hardships affecting the elderly in Venezuela and to “deploy a humanitarian action program for distributing medicines” necessary to the health of seniors.

Moving Forward

Since Venezuela’s drastic economic decline, humanitarian aid organizations have provided extensive support in keeping the country’s population afloat. Fortunately as of 2021, the Venezuelan economy has begun to rebound and is now on a long, but hopeful track toward full revitalization. However, elderly poverty in Venezuela still remains a somewhat silent, and demographically disproportionate problem that continues to call for attention.  

– Reagan McDaniel
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in BotswanaThe vast majority of health systems in developing countries are arguably only “designed to deal with acute conditions and diseases,” with the WHO defining quality of life “as an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of culture and value systems in which they live.” Because Botswana is a very rural and agricultural country, many elderly people living in poverty are particularly vulnerable, as accessing hospitals, support and even basic amenities can be a particularly challenging task, with care solely falling upon family members. 

Furthermore, even when the elderly attempt to access support, there are many barriers. According to one study from the NIH, Botswana is facing a challenge when it comes to addressing loneliness and social isolation due to the lack of comprehensive policies and programs in place.

Therefore social networking links are particularly weak, and to make things worse, most of the facilities available are particularly difficult to access. Unfortunately, many buildings still do not prioritize accessibility by lacking lifts or ramps.

In particular, a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine in 2019, suggested that the solution to solving elderly poverty and the issues associated with it was to improve social structures. “Services to tackle later-life loneliness and social exclusion need to be more widely available and robust if they are to promote healthy aging and build resilience, support and independence.” 

Common Illnesses in Botswana 

Due to the majority of those who are elderly in Botswana living in extreme cases of poverty, many suffer from malnourishment, which leads to further health complications later in life. 

A study, conducted by the Epidemiol Institute of Health in 2000, which analyzed elderly poverty in Mmankgodi Village, stated, “Among our group of elderly, 69, 21% were classified as moderate or severely malnourished. This indicates that malnutrition is a significant health problem among the elderly in this region.” 

Additionally, “Blindness was the single most frequently found physical disability, affecting 10% of the study population. The majority suffered from cataracts, a condition that can be surgically treated.”

However, despite this being the most common condition in the region, the surgery to remove the cataract is only conducted in three hospitals in Botswana. This means that many elderly people eventually become blind, as the treatment required is inaccessible to most. 

Current Actions To Support the Elderly

An organization that is currently working in the area to take care of the elderly is the Pabaleong Hospice homecare program, run by the Sisters of Nazareth Charity. The sisters and caregivers who work for the hospice provide support for vulnerable people through doing both home visits and treating them at the 10-bed inpatient facility which is based in Metsimotlhabe. 

The charity has so far reached 90 patients who are living at home, and has provided palliative care throughout the country. 

Someone who has been supported by the program is a man named Matthew (named changed to protect his privacy). Matthew speaks of having been “woken by pain from an infection in his right leg.” Normally having to walk over a mile to receive treatment, the Pabalelong Hospice program was able to provide support by visiting Matthew’s home, and the sisters have been making visits regularly to ensure that he remains in stable condition. 

“I don’t think I could have walked to the clinic today, it is very painful,” Matthew says, rubbing his wound. “I have also run out of bandages, so I am really happy you have come to see me today,” he tells his caregivers. 

Despite the success of this program, much more work needs to be done to support the elderly in Botswana. This consists of improvements to health and social care, making infrastructure capable of accommodating those who require special access to buildings and ensuring that an elderly person’s family isn’t the only source of help out there.

– Megan Rose Miley
Photo: Unsplash

Elderly Poverty in Cuba
Elderly poverty in Cuba remains a significant concern as the country faces with economic challenges and limited resources. According to the World Bank, individuals aged 65 and above constituted 16% of Cuba’s population in 2021. Looking ahead, the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) projected in 2016 that by the year 2030, 29% of the Cuban population will be aged 60 and above, while only 16.1% will be under the age of 15. This article delves into the impact of meager pensions and economic struggles on the elderly population in Cuba, emphasizing the need for sustainable solutions to alleviate their financial hardships.

Caring for the Elderly Becomes an Important Daily Commitment for Cuban Families

Caring for the elderly has become a crucial daily commitment for Cuban families as the elderly population continues to grow. The Cuban government has responded by assigning caregiving responsibilities to the family unit while preserving cultural traditions. The care of older people has become an important daily commitment for Cuban families.

However, to avoid the care of the elderly becoming an overwhelming family burden, these families receive relevant thematic education and community support. Changes in the structure and functioning of the Cuban family have significantly affected the economic, physical and psychological well-being of older people. Moreover, as the generation of Cuban baby boomers born in the 1960s enters the aging stage in the next decade, the sudden increase in the number of older people will impact the existing mechanisms of family solidarity in Cuba.

In 2021, Cuba’s old age dependency ratio (percentage of working-age population) reached 23%, highlighting the growing importance of taking care of the elderly and addressing elderly poverty in Cuban society.

Insufficient Pension Rates

The issue of insufficient pension rates is one of the key challenges contributing to elderly poverty in Cuba. Retired individuals in the country often receive pensions that fall short of meeting basic living expenses, leaving many elderly individuals in a precarious financial situation.

As of the end of 2022, the Ministry of Finance and Prices reported that 367,887 individuals were receiving social welfare benefits and there were 1,821,000 pensioners in Cuba. The minimum pension, which varies depending on the economic sector, is set at 1,528 pesos, equivalent to less than $10 USD in today’s currency. This limited amount makes it extremely challenging for older adults to cover even basic living expenses, let alone address other financial needs and maintain a decent standard of living. The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights presented a report in 2022 showing that 20% of surveyed adults aged 65 and above were able to access the necessary medicines they require. Additionally, 18% of the elderly were occupying houses that could potentially collapse, highlighting the precarious living conditions that a significant portion of the elderly population in Cuba faces.

Efforts to Fight Elderly Poverty in Cuba

In the context of the aging population, the Integral Program on Healthy Ageing is a project that the European Union and the Municipal Government. The Cuban Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics, a nongovernmental organization in Cuba, coordinates it. It started in January 2018 and the main goal of this project is to enhance the overall quality of life and well-being of the elderly residents in the targeted municipality.

The Integral Program on Healthy Ageing, a project that the European Union and the Municipal Government funded, plays a crucial role. The Cuban Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics, a nongovernmental organization in Cuba, coordinates the project with the main goal of enhancing the overall quality of life and well-being of elderly residents in the targeted municipality. The project adopts an integrated care approach encompassing all environments where individuals grow older, necessitating coordinated efforts at the micro (clinical), meso (service delivery) and macro (system) levels.

Furthermore, the Community Care Program and the National Program for the Comprehensive Care of the Elderly have led to the establishment of Casas del adulto mayor (Houses of the Elderly). These daycare facilities serve as an integrated approach to address the intersection of health and social care for isolated elderly individuals. Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of Casas del Adulto mayor, with a growth rate of 37%. In 2005, there were 201 facilities and by 2016, this number had risen to 276.

While the challenge of elderly poverty in Cuba persists, ongoing initiatives demonstrate a dedication to creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for the elderly, with the ultimate goal of reducing poverty and enhancing their overall well-being.

– Yizhi Cao
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Chile 
For many people unfamiliar with Chilean micros (tiny, public-private microbuses, the most popular form of transportation in Chilean cities), they might appear overwhelming. It is not uncommon to see bus drivers racing at Formula One speeds, smoking cigarettes and sorting coins handed to them by riders into trays, all while cumbia villera music blasts at deafening decibel levels. However, for the elderly residents of Valparaíso, these micros serve as a lifeline, connecting working-class individuals from the poverty-stricken hills (cerros) to the city center.

Cars are too expensive, Ubers avoid the steep trek up the unforgiving hills and public four-person taxis (colectivos) are rare. Micros are the reliable mode of transport that the people can depend on and its intentional focus on serving older porteños (Valparaíso natives) helps to alleviate elderly poverty in Chile. The Borgen Project conducted an interview with Aracelli Urquieta Marambio, a beneficiary of the micro’s transformative benefits, to delve deeper into the matter.

Elderly Poverty in Chile’s Valparaíso Region and Gentrification

Chile’s millennial generation currently enjoys the benefits of a 21st-century copper and lithium boom, leading to increased investment, development and improved quality of life. In fact, Chile has now become the second wealthiest country in South America in terms of GDP per capita. However, for the older Chileans who are no longer earning incomes, a different reality unfolds. Many of them experienced the ruthless 17-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) during their prime working years and now face financial struggles as Chile becomes increasingly more expensive to live in. The pensions the elderly receive are not high enough to keep up with the runaway inflation, which the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. This has resulted in a significant 38% rise in elderly poverty in Chile between 2017 and 2021.

Nowhere is the process of gentrification more apparent than in the coastal city of Valparaíso, a historically working-class city that has witnessed an influx of international tourists and affluent “cuico” (upper-class) Chileans after receiving UNESCO’s World Heritage Site designation in 2003. This has had a tangible impact on the elderly population of Valparaíso, with the region having the highest (6.3%) percentage of people aged 75 or older.

This rapidly changing environment is evolving too quickly for the elderly residents, many of whom have called “The Jewel of the Pacific” their home for more than 50 years, just like Aracelli Urquieta. For her, Valparaíso is unrecognizable compared to what it was just 15 years ago. However, amid the changes, her trips on the micros in the port city have remained a calming constant in her life.

Making the Micros a Safe Space for the Impoverished Elderly

Recognizing that owning cars is simply not feasible for most Valparaíso natives, especially for senior citizens who rely on pensions earned during times when inflation rates were significantly lower, Valparaíso’s municipal government made a decision during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to introduce a 60% discount on micro fares for the elderly.

Aracelli Urquieta, in her interview, praised this discount as a heaven-sent help for those with low-paying pensions. She emphasized the convenience of only paying 40% of the actual fare, greatly benefiting the grandparents of Valparaíso. She also highlighted the micro’s advantages, enabling the elderly to run errands for their working children during the day. Additionally, in her own case, the micros have been invaluable in aiding her with the care of her mother and aunt.

In combination with informal rules reserving the best seats for seniors, this senior discount has turned the micros, which are already predominantly used by the elderly, into a significant tool in reducing elderly poverty in Chile. When asked why so many older people prefer micros over other transport options, Urquieta provided insights: rideshares and colectivos (taxis) are too low to the ground for easy boarding, making micros more comfortable and community-oriented, which is why many elderly passengers prefer them.

Mass transit systems, especially buses, serve as vital community spaces, reducing poverty and allowing independence and mobility not only for Chile’s elderly but for senior citizens worldwide. Microbuses offer better accessibility for the elderly compared to car-centric infrastructure designed for young professionals and daily commuters. Urban transportation worldwide should prioritize the most vulnerable groups by considering affordability and accessibility.

– Ethan Clark
Photo: Courtesy of Ethan Clark

Elderly Care in Costa RicaCosta Rica is a Latin American country renowned for its stunning beaches, delicious coffee and idyllic weather. It also has an aging population and is a world leader in elderly care. In 2020, 9% of Costa Ricans were above the age of 60. According to projections, this number could rise to over 20% by 2050, transforming Costa Rica into a super-aged society. Read on to discover how the provision of elderly care in Costa Rica is paving the way for a brighter future.

After the 1948 Costa Rican civil war, as the world balked at the horrors of the Second World War and grappled with human rights, the Costa Rican government made a bold decision. It abolished its military and, instead, began establishing an inclusive and comprehensive social welfare program. Today, 96% of the population is covered by the government’s universal health care, including nearly all older adults. 

While 17% of older adults are impoverished, Costa Rica is one of the few Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states where people aged 65 and above are less likely to face poverty compared to the average citizen. Moreover, Costa Rica boasts one of the smallest gender disparities in old-age poverty rates within the OECD

Supporting Costa Rica’s Elderly: A Three-Pronged Approach

Elderly individuals in Costa Rica receive support from three main sources: their families, nonprofit organizations and the state. Together, these systems form a safety net that makes elderly care in Costa Rica uniquely dignified and effective. 

Older adults’ families are their primary caregivers, with 85% of people above the age of 65 living with two or more other people in 2017. This reflects the cultural norms of inter-generational households and familial support. However, the American Association of Retired Persons reports that the rate of elderly Costa Ricans living alone increased by 36% between 2011 and 2017. This suggests that there could be a need for nonprofit and government programs to expand to sustain the country’s older adult population. 

Ongoing Efforts

The Yamuni Tabush Foundation, for example, has been promoting healthy aging in Costa Rica since its founding in 2013. A partner of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the foundation played a crucial role in securing protective medical supplies for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation also trained community health workers in high-risk areas and staff working in elderly residences, protecting vulnerable aged populations when they needed it most. 

Legislative support has also shaped the landscape of elderly care in Costa Rica, guided by the values of human rights and equality. In 1999, the government passed the Comprehensive Law for Older Adults, the first piece of national legislation specifically aiming to improve older adults’ quality of life. Demonstrating its support for this vulnerable group, Costa Rica ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Adults in 2016. In 2020, the country criminalized the abandonment of older adults on the grounds that it infringed upon their human rights. The government also showed its commitment to older adults when, in 2015, it increased funding to the National Council for Older Adults (CONAPAM) and its associated care network, Red Cuido. 

CONAPAM partners with community homes, daycare centers and churches to aid exceptionally vulnerable or impoverished older adults. This government program impacts more than 15,000 people annually and has played a significant role in the implementation of The First National Alzheimer Plan of Costa Rica. This plan, the first of its kind in a low or middle-income country, focuses on improving the quality of life of dementia patients, who make up some 10.7 per 1,000 Costa Ricans. 

Looking Forward

The quality of life of older Costa Ricans is not all perfect. Only 22% of the elderly population have been able to find employment, out of which 70% are working in the informal sector. The situation worsens as 43% of older adults have reported experiencing violent encounters, and almost 10% have faced age-based discrimination.

Nonetheless, Costa Rica has robust support structures within families and the nonprofit and government sectors. For decades, elderly care in Costa Rica has led both Latin America and the world in protecting the rights and dignity of older adults. As its older population continues to grow, its next steps may pave the way for a brighter future for older adults both inside and outside its sunny borders.

– Faye Crawford
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in GhanaThe West African nation of Ghana is grappling with a widespread, decades-long poverty crisis, predominately in rural areas of the country. According to the World Bank, 20.5% of Ghana’s population lived below the international poverty line in 2022. In particular, elderly poverty in Ghana has become a growing problem due to factors including a rapidly aging population and low birthrates. However, the nation is working to combat the problem and provide relief for some of its most vulnerable citizens.

Trends that Contribute to Elderly Poverty in Ghana

Elderly Poverty in Ghana, as elsewhere, affects the health and quality of life of citizens 60 years of age and older. According to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Ghana’s elderly population was close to 2 million in 2021, a figure almost 10 times higher than that recorded in 1960. Furthermore, the GSS’s 2021 Population and Housing Census indicated that more than 25% of Ghana’s elderly live in multidimensional poverty, meaning that they lack access to several essential resources and services like clean water, a secure food supply, reliable housing and health care. Notably, elderly multidimensional poverty rates reportedly ranged from 8.8% in the region of Accra, Ghana’s capital city, to 53% in the rural Savannah Region.

As Ghana’s social infrastructures confront rising elderly poverty rates, health care, especially, is struggling to meet the needs of the country’s population. As of 2021, elderly citizens accounted for about 7% of Ghana’s population, one of the highest proportions in sub-Saharan Africa. Expected to rise, this figure is, in part, the result of recent increases in life expectancy due to factors including increased urbanization and increased access to family planning services. Yet, as Ghana’s elderly population grows, the demand for access to services such as health care also increases.

Impact on Living Standards

Lack of access to vital necessities such as nutritious food, clean water and health care puts individuals at greater risk of poor health and communicable disease. Many elderly citizens are living with at least one illness or chronic condition and have become burdened by increased medical expenses and financial instability. Some have become dependent on their families for care and support while others who are unable to find employment turn to informal work, such as begging, to provide for themselves and their families.

Addressing Elderly Poverty in Ghana

Care 4 Aged Outreach, a non-governmental, Ghana-based nonprofit, is working to provide support for elderly Ghanaians living in poverty, and are unable to care for themselves due to age or illness. The organization’s volunteers offer home visits and free services such as cooking, housekeeping, laundry and medical assistance. Its efforts include enabling school-aged children, who would otherwise be responsible for caring for their loved ones, to return to the classroom.

The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) program, founded in 2008, also provides cash transfers to households with elderly residents. Additionally, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), established by the Government of Ghana in 2003 and updated in 2012, is working to ensure access to quality health insurance and care for all Ghanaians, including elderly citizens.

Looking Ahead

These initiatives are providing vital relief for elderly Ghanaians living in poverty. Still, the complex and multi-faceted nature of the issue highlights the need for more effort. Ongoing trends suggest that continued work and support can potentially resolve the problem of elderly poverty in Ghana, thereby creating a brighter future for the country’s aging population and youth alike.

– Nicholas DeLuca
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Elderly Poverty in North KoreaNorth Korea, a highly centralized totalitarian state with a population of nearly 25 million people, is a country that constitutes the northern half of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. Over the past few decades, the country’s economy has faced significant challenges, including a scarcity of resources, international sanctions and self-imposed isolation. From 2012 to 2018, the country had an estimated poverty rate of 60% with significant fluctuations at the national level. Consequently, the country faces an aging population and a decline in the younger population caused by low birth rates. Despite its centrally planned economy, job stability in the workforce does not provide enough income, resulting in elderly poverty in North Korea.

3 Facts About Elderly Poverty in North Korea

  1. Increasing Rate of Poverty Risk Among the Elderly Population: North Korea’s elderly population, aged above 65 years, is rapidly rising. In 2008, the aging population increased from 5.3% to 8.5%, predicting a growth of 14% by 2033. Increasing demand to assist the elderly population in a country with low economic growth and sustained workforce opportunities brings income and health concerns.

  2. Limited Pension System: North Korea has a limited pension system. It provides minimal support in providing financial assistance to the elderly. Reports from Radio Free Asia (RFA) indicate that the social security pension offers about 1,000 won per month. This is around $0.12. Many elderly citizens are unable to cover basic living expenses with limited income, leading them to remain in poverty and hindering their retirement plans.

  3. Housing Conditions: Many elderly individuals live in poor housing conditions due to a lack of proper infrastructure. This leads to inadequate heating and structural issues. Roughly 90% of North Korea’s housing environment was constructed between the 1950s and 1990s. This was to solve the resulting housing crisis after the damage of numerous facilities and buildings during the Korean War in 1953.

Efforts of North Korean Authorities to Address Elderly Poverty

According to sources from Daily NK, an initiative was implemented by the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the North Korean communist party’s Central Committee to identify and register the homeless elderly population aged 60 years and above. It strived to build new facilities for nursing homes, aiming to provide care and support for abandoned or neglected elderly individuals. Nevertheless, North Korean citizens expressed concern regarding the initiative, with the possibility of elderly residents feeling compelled to return to their families despite the lack of resources to ensure proper caregiving. Additionally, there are speculations of potential mistreatment or neglect in the absence of familial support.

Efforts by NGOs in Alleviating Poverty

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) strive to mitigate the struggles endured by the elderly population in North Korea. Although the government gives limited information on solutions, these NGOs endeavor to improve the quality of life for the elderly by providing assistance through their food aid program and awareness-raising initiatives.

Helping Hands Korea (HHK) is a Christian NGO that was founded by Tim and Sunmi Peters in Seoul. Since 1996, it has addressed the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of North Koreans in crisis. One of its projects aims to provide food, medicine and clothing to the most vulnerable in society, especially the elderly.

Other initiatives focus on promoting elderly poverty awareness to encourage governmental priorities and bring elicit action on the potential policies. In 2020, the United Nations released the “Needs and Priorities Plan.” It targeted the provision of humanitarian assistance while implementing sustainable development goals. It aims to give food and nutritional support to 3.3 million people in North Korea. The plan also will give health services to 5.5 million people and clean water and sanitation to 300,000 people.

Looking Ahead

North Korea is making efforts to overcome its challenges to improve its economy. While it may not be in the government’s best interest, collaboration with international organizations supports the funding of elderly poverty. With continued effort, North Korea could achieve a future that is free of elderly poverty. And this can potentially improve living conditions and reduce the burden on younger generations.

– Cherine Jang
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in IraqDespite the vast oil reserves in Iraq, poverty is a huge issue facing the country. Factors such as social inequality, war and terrorism have led to 23% of the population of Iraq living in poverty, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission. Elderly poverty in Iraq is a particular problem requiring government attention.

What is Elderly Poverty?

Elderly poverty is when people over the age of 65 live without a sufficient income or pension. In the countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, approximately 14% of those over the age of 65 live in poverty. In comparison, the rate of poverty across the population of these countries on average is about 11.6%. Globally, elderly poverty is increasing, due to people living longer and having insufficient pensions.

Elderly Poverty in Iraq

Iraq has a population of approximately 41 million people, of which 5.1% (2 million people) are older than 60. According to the United Nations Population Fund, this number is expected to increase to around 7.5 million (10.6%) by 2050. While sources cannot reliably determine the exact rate of elderly poverty in Iraq, fewer than 20% of older people have a pension, which results in many working past retirement age.

In addition to this, literacy rates are lower among the elderly in Iraq, making jobs outside of manual labor difficult to obtain. Among those over 70 years, only 42% are literate; for those between 60 and 69 years, only 63% are literate. Although programs exist to improve literacy rates in Iraq, they focus primarily on the young.

The number of elderly workers has increased significantly in Iraq, making them commonplace, especially among those who fled and relocated due to ISIS. Obtaining work as an elderly laborer can be difficult, as younger workers are more desirable to companies, due to their physical strength and higher rates of literacy. The elderly population of Iraq needs the government to intervene to ensure there are job opportunities for all ages and skill sets.

Women in Iraq and the Impact of Elderly Poverty

Elderly poverty also negatively impacts women, as the care of elderly people usually falls to female family members, limiting their ability to get a job. According to the Iraq Women Integrated Social and Health Survey, 31% of the elderly women interviewed needed help to perform basic daily tasks. The majority of this help comes from their families, as less than 1% have access to external health care workers. This is likely due to costs, as only 59.7% of the interviewed women over 55 were able to afford health care.

In Iraq, aid for the elderly is primarily the responsibility of their families rather than the government, but the lack of government involvement frequently perpetuates the cycle. Many women cannot work due to looking after elderly or disabled relatives, and without work, they cannot gain a pension. This perpetuates a cycle of generational poverty among the elderly. Furthermore, many people in Iraq lost family members during the conflicts, resulting in a number of elderly people who have neither familial nor government assistance.

Organizations Help Solve the Elderly Poverty Issue in Iraq

Fortunately, organizations and programs are in place to improve elderly poverty in Iraq. HelpAge International is an organization centered around improving the lives of the elderly by advocating for greater social protection, better health care and the recognition of the needs and rights of the elderly during crisesElderly people are often physically unable to flee during conflicts or natural disasters, but aid organizations frequently overlook their specific needs (such as accessible food distribution points or recovery loans). The Jiyan Foundation has partnered with HelpAge International in Iraq, where they provide support to those suffering from the effects of human rights violations and conflict.

The Social Protection Program for Iraq: Leveraging Effective Response and Accelerating Reform is an EU-supported program lasting from April 1, 2021, to December 31, 2025. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), alongside the Iraqi government, is working in collaboration with the World Food Program and the International Labor Organization to improve conditions for vulnerable people in Iraq. The program aims to encourage legislative reform around social protection, such as benefits and pension schemes while optimizing existing systems. The overall goal is to ensure that by 2024, vulnerable people such as the elderly, women, the young, the disabled and Internally Displaced People will be able to access income security and social insurance.

Shedding Light on Elderly Poverty Across the World

In recent years, elderly poverty has been gaining more recognition globally. Since 1990, October 1 has been celebrated as the International Day of Older Persons, and in 2010, the U.N. General Assembly created the Open-Ended Working Group on Aging. This group works to improve the human rights of elderly people within international law. Elderly poverty is also becoming more widely studied by academic institutions like Oxford and Harvard. In 2021, the World Health Organization and several U.N. departments published a report on ageism and the need to eliminate it from society.

Elderly people are among the most vulnerable in society, and it is essential that they are included in and protected by government legislation. As life expectancy continues to rise with advancements in technology and science, it is more important than ever to address elderly poverty. With further international support and government initiatives, elderly poverty in Iraq could be significantly reduced.

– Tasha B. Johnson
Photo: Unsplash