Nepal, 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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%.
- 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.
- 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.
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