Social problems

The overall status of elderly poverty

Have you ever seen an elderly walking on the street without a proper dress and even doing labor work dragging their heavy body, this is the true portrayal of a poor elderly in our society, which should not happen to them when they are old. In Chinese, we say ‘老有所養,老有所依,老有所樂,老有所為’, which literally mean providing the elderly with a sense of security, a sense of belonging, a sense of worthiness and enable the elder to enjoy their life, which is our tradition mindset from our ancestors but the elderly are suffering from their daily life nowadays, let alone enjoying their life, unfortunately, the number of poor elderly is increasing worldwide. Overall, That’s why I concern this issue and want to create a system to mitigate their sorrow. If you also wish to change the situation then please share with me your insights.

Poverty is a major threat to the well-being of older persons

extracted from the UNDESA

In most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age. UNDESA study reported that on average, the poverty level for persons among the over-75 years of age, across OECD countries is 14.7 percent, which is 3.5 percent higher than the poverty level among 66 to 75 year-olds. The “oldest-old”, aged 80 years or over, are less able to work than younger older persons; are more likely to have spent their savings, and are most in need of age-appropriate health and long-term personal care services. Globally, the number of the “oldest-old” is growing even faster than the numbers of older persons overall. As a result, the share of people aged 80 years or over is increasing virtually everywhere and is projected to more than triple to 434 million by 2050, when two out of three oldest-old persons will live in developing regions. And the older women are at much greater risk than older men worldwide.

Credit to World Social Protection Report

We can see that the two-thirds of the world’s older persons live in developing regions where the informal economy accounts for a large proportion of their employment according to the report, while workers suffering from the bad working conditions and insufficient labor and social protection. Hence, the trend is showing to us that the majority of workers in the informal sector will face income insecurity in their old age. Globally only 42 percent of future pensioners can expect to receive a social security pension from Ibid.

When I was doing the literature review about Ugandan poor elderly, I found that older people have always lost out when it comes to government policies on social protection and are barely mentioned in Uganda’s national Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) according to Helping the aged in Uganda. And in HK, I also found that one in three elderly Hongkongers living in poverty, and their condition is worse due to limited space, high living expenditure and limited support from their children and the government.

Poverty is a complicated issue, it connects with the economy, population structure, the education, the gender issue and even the public policy. There are so many local or international organizations that intend to battle poverty and I have listed some of them I know personally. World bank is the international organization aimed to tackle poverty worldwide, they work in every major area of development by providing a wide array of financial products and technical assistance, and they help countries share and apply innovative knowledge and solutions to the challenges they face. Oxfam works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive. By supporting schools, to helping farmers sell their crops for a fair price, to improving access to people with HIV/AIDS to health care – their long-term development projects are transforming lives. Acumen tends to change the way the world tackle poverty, mainly by impact investing in promising projects and promoting entrepreneurs bringing sustainable solutions to big problems of poverty. World Vision, they are a Christian humanitarian organization helping children, families, and their communities overcome poverty and injustice.

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

Nelson Mandela

Elderly poverty is the same as complex as poverty itself and even more, however, when it comes to an increasing population of low-to-no-income seniors, many preventative measures come too late.  Education and retraining initiatives, savings plans, and job creation programs won’t help someone in her 70s or 80s who are struggling just to cover room and board after a lifetime of low-wage labor based on Talk Poverty. We have to take different approaches to deal with elderly poverty, and mainly I think the responsibility relay on the government, to level up the social security net of senior citizens and encourage the pension security, to increase the availability of programs that provide assistance with healthcare and long-term care costs and also reconsider the population policy etc.

Photo by Kelly Lacy on

Organizations are the force to push relevant changes to happen at the policy level. In HK, there are a few organizations focus on elderly poverty, the one is 拾易紙長, it hopes to increase the income of the senior scavengers and enable them to live a more dignified life and raise their social concerns to the government. The operation of the project is to acquire the discarded cartons collected by the scavengers at a price higher than the market price, and then renovate the resources into small cartons, display boards or cards, and then sell the products to different industries such as Chinese pharmacies or event planning companies. Another one is Retired not. They are on a mission to re-invent retirement by connecting seniors with roles that make the most of their experience, training them to enhance their employability and working with retiring talent to enable them to have a successful shot at a second career.

It is delightful to see different movements on tackling elderly poverty, and hope there will be more and more organizations to cover senior’s difficulties, to force the government to make changes that favor those low-income elderly. We all will get old someday, and what situation is for them now could happen to us when we get old if things haven’t changed at all, so we should take actions to benefit our seniors and also the future ourselves.

This article was edited by the original author without their consent, and should not be reproduced.

By Social Innovation Insight

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One reply on “The overall status of elderly poverty”

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