Many elderly in Israel face financial hardship. This is reflected in the large percentage of elderly who receive supplemental income maintenance benefits (about 30%) to ensure them a minimum income, and in the significant percentage of elderly who live below the poverty line (20.2%). This study examined the effect of financial hardship on the elderly’s living conditions, focusing on four areas: housing conditions, loneliness, treatment of selected health conditions, and food security. The findings concerning food security are part of a broader study conducted among all households in Israel.
The study was carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Forum to Address Food Insecurity and Poverty in Israel, ESHEL, and the National Insurance Institute. Its goal is to help develop policies and innovative programs for the elderly, in general, and the “Aging Well” Project initiated by the President of the State of Israel to improve the lives of elderly living in poverty.
Significant problems were found in all of the areas examined, primarily among elderly with low income. The following are among the major findings.
Seventeen percent of all households of elderly reported that their apartment was always or often cold in winter due to financial difficulties (among elderly with low income, the percentage reached 30%). Furthermore, a significant number of elderly live in apartments with severe maintenance problems: dampness in winter (16%), large cracks in the walls (14%), and serious problems with the plumbing or sewage system (9%).
Four percent of the elderly reported untreated vision problems, 4% reported untreated hearing problems, and 16% reported untreated dental problems due to financial difficulties. The percentages rise among elderly with low income – to 9% regarding vision and hearing problems, and to nearly 25% regarding dental problems.
Insufficient food and inappropriate nutrition due to financial difficulties (food insecurity) exist in almost all developed countries. In developing countries this is reflected in severe food shortages that lead to malnutrition, which are life threatening, and which necessitates emergency medical treatment. In developed countries, the problem is defined as a lack of continuous access to sufficient quantities of appropriate food that can ensure a healthy and active life.
Most (81%) of Israel’s elderly do not suffer from food insecurity. Nevertheless, significant groups in this population report food insecurity due to financial difficulties: About 7% report severe food insecurity, and 12% report moderate food insecurity. No significant differences were found between households of elderly and all households in Israel regarding the extent of food insecurity.
The findings have been widely disseminated and discussed, and a review is currently under way by the government of support policies for the elderly.
This study was funded by ESHEL and the National Insurance Institute.
Citations in the professional and academic literature
Casakin, H., & Neikrug, S. (2012). Place Identity in the Neighborhood as Perceived by the Elder Residents: Relations with Attachment, Dependence and Place Quality. The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments, 107-119.
Casakinu, H., & Neikrug, S. (2012). Place Identity in the Neighborhood as Perceived by the Elder Residents: Relations with Attachment, Dependence and Place Quality. The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments, 107.
DellaPergola, S. (2011). JEWISH SHOAH SURVIVORS. Holocaust Survivors: Resettlement, Memories, Identities, 293.