What Bothers Old People most?

A poor old woman begging on the streets

WHAT do elderly people themselves regard as their most serious problems? Most often mentioned are: not enough money; poor health care; fear of crime; loneliness; being considered useless; the huge change in their life-style." 

Let us discuss some of this problems:

Work problems


In many lands a mandatory retirement age bothers large numbers of the elderly. They are able to work and want to work. But they cannot get jobs.

Yet a third of those over retirement age say that they would work if they could find a job.

Many elderly persons are troubled by the drastic change in the rhythm of their life, especially after retirement.

Their lack of a daily routine causes problems. It becomes a chore to fill free time, particularly if interests have not been sufficiently varied during earlier life.

Also, when a married man retires, it can have a profound effect on his wife.

With the husband around the house every day, offering comments, making criticisms, wanting attention, a strain can develop between them.

It has been found that about one third of all marriages deteriorate after retirement.

One teacher shows what can happen:

My mind is teeming with ideas, but no one wants them. I don’t want to fill in the time before I die. I want to use the time. I need to work, not make-work, not a hobby. To be considered unfit for the very job for which I was trained, in which I have many years of experience, is the cruelest kind of rejection.”

But while problems such as changing life-styles and enforced idleness are very real, they are often overshadowed by more urgent ones. Foremost is the problem of money.

Money Problems


What often brings an immediate financial burden is retirement. The income suddenly drops, perhaps to only about half of what it was.

Now retired persons must live on a company pension or government assistance, such as “Social Security.” But this is not anywhere near their previous income. This, plus inflation, may create money problems.

One 72-year-old man thought he had an ample pension when he first retired. But inflation shrank its buying power. So now he says:

When the end of the month comes, I am usually down to my last few dollars. When that happens, I sometimes skip supper.”

Another elderly woman says:

There are people out there starving in the street. There are people eating out of the garbage cans. Do you believe that? Right out of the garbage can!”

Is that an exaggeration, or an isolated case? No! Without additional income, as is the case for some elderly, life cannot be sustained.

Immediate relief is required to prevent actual starvation among the elderly poor.

For example, an 80-year-old woman in St. Petersburg as a widow she had to live on a small pension. She skipped meals, doing with less and less.

Finally she collapsed in her run-down room, and at death weighed 76 pounds (34 kg). An autopsy found no trace of food in her stomach. “Malnutrition” was the coroner’s verdict.

But an elderly friend labeled it: “Surrender.” He said: “She just stopped believing tomorrow would be better.”

Health problems


While heredity plays a part in health during old age, an important factor is how a person lived during his younger years.

If he smoked, then the price in later life might be lung cancer, bladder cancer, chronic heart disease or emphysema.

Over drinking brings on the premature death of brain cells, as well as liver disease. Overeating can contribute to heart trouble, diabetes and other diseases.

Poor nutrition is an important cause of poor health in the elderly. Particularly is this so because some cannot afford to eat properly.

Yet, even when they can afford it, some elderly people still neglect their diet, especially when they live alone. This makes them far more vulnerable to disease.

As for senility, one study indicates that only about 15 percent of the elderly ever become senile. And some conclude that it is not the direct result of old age, but of disease.

Tragically, the onset of poor health, boredom, fear and depression lead to a mounting problem among the aged: alcoholism. Nearly one out of 10 elderly people are now estimated to be alcoholic.

Crime Problems


In other places, such as in the large cities, more old people ones than any other age group are the victims of crime.

They are less able to protect themselves. An anti-crime official says:

 Most are afraid and view crime as one of the most serious problems facing them.” 

Common crimes against elderly people include purse snatching, mugging, fraud, forcible entry for robbery or even rape.

MAKE no mistake, even SCAM artists have done their homework.

They know the facts that make the older population particularly attractive targets for swindling.

Not surprisingly, such older ones make up about 30 percent of all fraud victims.

What makes the elderly vulnerable?

“They tend to be naturally trusting and may not be knowledgeable about current investing,” explains Consumers’ Research magazine.

One police official lamented that telemarketing fraud :

It feeds especially on the lonely and the vulnerable—old folks—who make up the bulk of the victims. These are people who grew up in an era when a man’s handshake was as good as his word.”

A representative of the American Association of Retired Persons was quoted as saying:

A lot of times it’s said that greed gets you in trouble. With older people, it’s not greed. They have a fear of outliving their money. They don’t want to be a burden on their children. Then they are afraid to report [the fraud] because they’re afraid their children will think they can’t take care of themselves.”

Elderly victims of fraud are not always duped or misled. In some cases they are lonely, perhaps with a need to “buy” friendship.

In one community some lonely widows were coaxed into paying $20,000 in advance for a “lifetime’s worth of dance lessons,” wrote one newspaper reporter. “Some were too frail to walk. They weren't naive, just desperate.” 

A dance club gives new enrolls a place to go to be with their newly acquired friends, often in their own age group.

A flattering, sweet-talking, debonair salesman, who may also act as their dancing instructor, is difficult to resist.

Loneliness problems


In the “old days,” elderly parents usually lived with their grown children, providing companionship. In various lands, such as in Africa, Asia and Latin America, this is still true.

But even there, change is evident. For instance, in Japan the number of older persons living alone has increased.

Of them, Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri said:

Japan is clearly turning steadily into a society full of old people, but both public and private housing is largely closed to them so that many are having difficulty finding a place to live. Although Japan is supposed to be trying to become a welfare country, hardly anything is being done to provide old people with what they need most; namely, housing.”

In modern societies, more older people than ever before live alone, or are put into nursing home for the elderly.

And a parallel trend is that more grown children are unable to care for their aging parents, or do not want to do so.

Despite all this challenges, the elderly can learn to cope with this old age problems and live more meaningful lives.

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