Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Cheshvan 5766 - November 16, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Israel's Elderly — the Poorest in the West

by G. Kleiman

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."


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