Dismal figures on Israel's elderly population, released as
International Elderly Day draws near, reveal that the rate of
poverty among elderly people in Eretz Yisroel is the highest
in the West.
According to Central Bureau for Statistics figures, the
poverty rate among the elderly is 60 percent, double the
poverty rate in the general population. Fourteen percent of
the elderly reported that they are childless and have nobody
to turn to in times of need.
"The difficult set of circumstances among a large portion of
the elderly demands we take rigorous action to initiate
activity to improve their quality of life," Deputy Welfare
Minister MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said in reaction to the
report. "I am very concerned by these shameful figures. The
Government of Israel must allow the elderly to live in
dignity. We must see to it that the difficult sights of
elderly people eating in soup kitchens or who are unable to
purchase vital medications are curtailed."
The report also shows that in 2004 Israel had 682,000
residents age 65 and over, representing 10 percent of the
total population, twice the proportion of 50 years ago.
MK Nisan Slomiansky, chairman of the Elderly Lobby, said,
"Our country is led by two elderly men and though we would
expect them to address the matter quickly, in practice the
situation is getting worse."
Gidon Ben-Yisrael, chairman of the Pensioners Union, said
that 20 years from now the number of elderly people in Israel
will reach 1.3 million or 13 percent of the population, yet
their situation continues to decline. Ben- Yisrael also notes
that according to the CBS figures 72 percent of those age 65
and over say they suffer from health problems, 38 percent
have trouble bathing, 32 percent have trouble getting dressed
and 13 percent have trouble eating unassisted.
Ben-Yisrael presented 13 demands by the Pensioners Union as
the 2006 national budget heads toward a first reading. The
foremost demands: the immediate restoration of the 1.5
percent yet to be restored out of the 4 percent cut from the
Old-Age Allotment (Kitzbat Ziknah), linking the
allotments to the average wages and gradually raising them to
a level of 22 percent of the average salary as was the case
with the legislation of the National Insurance Law, the
restoration of the three-quarters of an hour stolen from
elderly people entitled to aid under the Nursing Care Law,
the inclusion of nursing care hospitalization in the basket
of health care services, giving widowers the same rights as
widows and eliminating pension fund management fees.
"These are people who worked and saved money all their lives
and they are spending almost all their money," said Ben-
Yisrael. "It is unconscionable for these people to have to
backslide. Ten years ago the Nursing Care Insurance Law was
passed and the Knesset committed itself to include it in the
health care services basket within three years. Ten years
have passed since then. People cannot be summoned every year
to demonstrate. In the meantime, people are going hungry. The
Knesset must accept this challenge and ensure that nursing
care insurance enters the health care basket. Why are
pensioners under the poverty line? Why must every third
pensioner choose between medicine or food and why is every
fifth pensioner alone? How did this happen? First of all
because the Old-Age Allotment, which was 25 percent in '54
went down all the time and eroded and is currently among the
lowest in world. Today the allotment is 14.5 percent."