What is being old in Latin America like? What is the role of older adults in our society?
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Leer en español: La realidad de los adultos mayores en Latinoamérica
Currently, in Latin America and the Caribbean the population continues to increase and age steadily. The region will experience an increase in the population of older adults that makes the formulation of new policies that ensure a better quality of life for elderly people indispensable. The reduction of mortality and the extension of life are leading countries around the world to take measures to meet the needs of a growing adult population. This is a great challenge for many Latin American countries that are not prepared socially or economically to respond to these needs.
According to the projections made by CELADE, the Social Development Division of ECLAC, the countries with the largest population of older adults in Latin America are Brazil and Mexico, followed by Colombia, Argentina, and Peru. In addition, this segment of the population is mostly made up by women.
Aging in the region occurs in a context of poverty and income inequality, so that the health problems typical of the elderly are compounded by economic difficulties that aggravate the situation for many citizens. This is in contrast to first world countries where a greater proportion of the elderly enjoy good retirement and activities that allow them a better quality of life.
According to the data collected by ECLAC, the coverage of retirement systems in Latin America is very low, so seniors must continue working until old age or depend on their families directly, living in homes with their children, and living together with generations of grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. 1 out of every 4 Latin American households has an older adult. The conditions, however, vary depending on the country. Here are some examples:
Chile: Older adults carry out activities organized free of charge by the municipalities. About 85% of older adults in Chile are self-sufficient, meaning they are not dependent on caregivers. They represent 34% of the population and generally live with their children.
Argentina: The poor elderly correspond to just over 7% of the population, compared to 38% of older adults who claim to have sufficient income for their expenses. In the country, older adults usually minimize their medical expenses.
Colombia: In this country, as in the rest of Latin America, older adults lack legal reforms that ensure health protection, for example. Older adults are characterized by living in poverty, abandonment, and social exclusion. More than 40% of them have mental problems such as depression. There are around 841 million older adults in Colombia.
In Latin America, having more than 60 years is synonymous with being old and people above this age are commonly excluded from job opportunities and other types of activities. While this is the general trend, there are also social inclusion initiatives that benefit some of the elderly. Some examples are geriatric tourism, transportation skills, free recreational activities, senior citizen homes sponsored by governments, priority health care, among others. These and other complementary measures will be decisive to guarantee the welfare of a segment of the population that is growing in the region.
Latin American Post | Daniella Páez Otey
Translated from "La realidad de los adultos mayores en Latinoamérica"