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60% of older adults live in a vulnerable situation in Ecuador

Published on September 21, 2021

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MIES relaunched a protection program for the Elderly, in a further attempt to reduce violence and poverty in this segment of the population

Every day María Llugsa walks the streets of the Historic Center of Quito in search of food or money. She has been doing it for five years because she has no job or family.

The little money she gets is enough to avoid starving, although there are days when she only eats once or twice. The only thing Llugsa doesn’t worry about is housing. A small room that her husband built, in the south of Quito before he died, is the place where she arrives every day after 6:00 p.m.

Like Llugsa, around 786,000 older adults live in vulnerable situations, according to the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES). This figure corresponds to 60% of the 1.3 million people over 65 in the country.

This condition of vulnerability is evidenced in that, for example, six out of 10 older adults are financially dependent on their relatives and four out of 10 receive state aid.

To this is added that more than 240,000 live in poverty and extreme poverty.

In addition, the deputy minister of the branch, Susana Santistevan, recognizes that older adults are also victims of violence.

“Every day we see that the elderly population is being abandoned because younger people go to the cities and leave these people defenseless.”

Along with abandonment, this age group suffers from physical, psychological and patrimonial violence. The latter is related to the dispossession of their assets, generally by their closest family circle.

For this reason, in a further attempt to reduce these problems, the MIES relaunched the National Specialized System for the Comprehensive Protection of the Rights of Older Adults. The objective of the initiative is to strengthen public protection policies for this population segment.

One of the most important aspects is to guarantee preferential, free, and quality access to the health system; especially since the vast majority of older adults suffer from one or more diseases that impair their quality of life.

A growing population

Currently, the elderly population comprises 7.4% of the total of the 17.5 million Ecuadorians.

Data from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) show that the number of people who make up this group increased 32.8% in the last 10 years. The figure went from 986,294 to 1,310,297 between 2010 and 2020.

By 2030, the MIES estimates that the elderly will become 30% of the national population.

Due to this, the MIES considers it urgent to apply public policies that guarantee the rights of the elderly, with the aim that they are consolidated in the future.

For this, the recently launched National Comprehensive Protection System seeks that the entities that comprise it create prevention, care, accompaniment, complaint and reparation strategies to serve the largest number of older adults.

According to the MIES, the ministries of Health, Education, Economy, Labor and  human rights organizations will participate in this project.

A law that does not bear fruit

In July 2018, the National Assembly approved the Law for the Elderly. The regulations aimed to guarantee the rights of people over 65 years of age and to reduce the levels of poverty and violence they suffer on a daily basis.

An objective that has not been met, according to the former Deputy Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, Marco Cazco. He says that the State has not been able to guarantee access to food, social protection or a more dignified life for the elderly.

Although the former official also holds the families responsible; since there is not “the necessary co-responsibility to reduce the levels of poverty and violence.”

Older age means lower income

Despite the fact that there are more older adults in the country every day, their living conditions are not the best. Average earnings decline as age progresses. Between 66 and 85 years of age, monthly income drops from $362 to $144, as there are no sources of employment or programs aimed at improving the purchasing power of this population segment. Due to lack of economic income, 2,975 Ecuadorian seniors live in poverty and another 60,000 are in extreme poverty.

Victims of violence

Around 575,000 seniors have suffered some type of violence.

This means that 44% of older adults have been victims of mistreatment, abandonment, or dispossession of their property.

Rodrigo Tenorio, a psychologist who works with older adults, says that the violence suffered by the elderly in their family is the one that generates the greatest psychological problems.

“An older adult who is rejected becomes depressed. When he presents this picture, it is difficult for him to overcome it because he generally does not access specialized help,” adds Tenorio.

The specialist says that a person who is over 70 years old “needs the support of his closest social circle to have a good quality of life.”

Ecuador is not alone

The aging of the population is a global phenomenon. By 2050, an estimated 2 billion people will be over 60 years old worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2015 there were 900 million older adults.

According to the WHO, the main reason is the advancement in medicine, since now diseases can be controlled and even cured that years ago caused the death of thousands of people at an earlier age.

Added to this are improvements in living conditions and the quality of food, which have as a consequence a longer life expectancy.

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