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Poverty and Aging in Different Economies

By:   •  April 29, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  1,321 Words (6 Pages)  •  156 Views

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Poverty and Aging

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Poverty and Aging

       The scarcity of resources often leads to poverty and inability to meet basic human needs. This phenomenon can be attributed to social, economic and political factors. Poverty alleviation is not a challenge for the developing nations alone, but poverty also prevails in many developed parts of the world. As per a research conducted by The World Bank, the number of people livening in the world in extreme poverty fell from 37.1% in 1990 to 9.6% in 2015. However, the report also suggests that it will take at least a century to bring the poorest of the world who have been stuck in extreme poverty to the poverty line. (1.25$ per day) (World Bank, 2015) Poverty has adverse effects on people from all age groups and it can pose serious consequences to the elderly. As people grow older they are unable to generate income like they did in earlier stages of life, so their incomes start to deplete, they have less or no savings while medical expenses are on the rise. It often leaves the destitute elderly in extremely unfavorable state and does not just impact them physically but can be challenging for them mentally as well.  As forecasted by the UN the number of elderly across the globe (60 years of age and above) will increase by 21.1 % (approx. 2 billion) by 2050 based on the fact that as per their research the global share of senior citizens hiked from 9.2 % in 1990 to 11.7% in 2013. (United Nations, 2013). The same report also states that roughly two-thirds of the world’s senior citizens live in developing countries.

Poverty and Aging in Different Economies

         Developing countries are often characterized by financial constraints and numerous additional factors that lead to poverty and hunger. Under such conditions, the elderly become extremely vulnerable. Physical impairments, declining health, lack of proper safety nets etc. make the situation even worse where they are marginalized, left homeless or deprived of the basic necessities of life. On the other hand, in developed nations, the elderly are often secured with financial and non-financial benefits such as pensions, health care and provision of some additional facilities. The role and support provided by the government to the elderly varies substantially and they are often seen relying on other sources apart from public help such as a network of private supporters, labor income, previously secured assets etc. (Rakhimova, 2016) It has been observed across many countries that non -profit organizations and public sector initiatives are more concentrated towards marginalized children than the marginalized  elderly and policymakers must decide how to manage the competition of fund allocation between children and the elderly. (Jecker, 2012) Similarly, the unequal distribution of income impacts the elderly as well as other members of the population. In some cases, elderly receiving private pensions receive much more than those relying on social security. People who worked for private organizations and had better jobs are often better off in old age as compared to others who rely more on social security in the U.S. Some elderly have little or no pension coverage and are more likely to remain trapped in poverty in old age. Having said that social security has helped lower the numbers of elderly poor from 15.3 million to 3.8 million in 1997 and without such an option, it is argued that nearly half of the elderly population of the U.S would have remained close to the poverty line. (Richardson et al., 2006)

        As the baby boomers in the U.S will reach retirement, The United States will become the leader in the aging population. It is estimated that that would result in limited resources for many senior citizens who will face a major financial crisis and will be in dire need of support services. (Bauer et al., 2010) In 2015, around 2.9 million households in the U.S having at least 1 senior citizen experienced food insecurity. (USDA, 2015 )

Poverty and Aging in the U.S

         Only 30 – 50 % of the elderly consumption in the U.S is supported by the government, regardless of America’s strong economic situation and it is expected that local and private organizations will have to play a role in providing support to the low-income elderly population. According to a research conducted by the US census bureau, senior members of the ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience poverty than whites. In general women with a low income, the household may become the prime candidates. African American elders had the highest risk of poverty in the US at 22.4% during the year 2000 in contrast to 18.8% for older Hispanics and 8.8% for non-Hispanic elderly whites. Elder women are also at a very high risk for poverty as compared to men. (US Census Breuer, 2001)


           In order to combat such a global crisis, one strategy could be to rely on something more than just the government’s support to provide for the elderly population. The responsibility of keeping the elderly secure and to help them combat extreme cases is not only with the public administration but also on the families of the senior citizens and on the baby boomers of the U.S themselves who belong to a better economy. If they agree to switch away from the role less role of the elderly (Mudege and Ezeh, 2009) and join hands to help each other collectively rather than relying on individual assistance they may be able to create safety nets that last much longer. However, it does not mean that there is no responsibility on the government to help support the elderly. Research suggests that the main challenge is to find a balance between individual and social responsibility. An important question relates to the families’ ability to assume responsibility for the welfare of all the members at home as well as the ability to remain resistant in times of financial shocks. Also, it is common for older women to be trapped in poverty as they are usually responsible for managing household chores and have little or no say in planning retirement funds. Widows are usually more vulnerable to poverty compared to married women and single men are more vulnerable to poverty as compared to a married couple. (Harris, 1998).


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