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Problems of the Aged


A major overriding problem of the elderly is the problem of poor physical health.

Wrote Edgar May, in his book, The Wasted Americans, 1964, "Our senior citizens are sick more frequently and for more prolonged periods than the rest of the population. Of every 100 persons age 65 or over, 80 suffer some kind of chronic ailment, 28 have heart disease or high blood pressure, 27 have arthritis or rheumatism, 10 have impaired vision, and 17 have hearing impairments. Sixteen are hospitalized one or more times annually. They require three times as many days of hospital care every year as persons under the age of 65" (p. 94).

All in all, the aged spend on the average twice as much money for medical care as do younger Americans.

According to the Office of Health Economics, obesity is another problem among the elderly. In Great Britain, for example, 51 percent of the males and 59 percent of the females 60 to 69 are overweight. Of all the curses that shorten life and restrict health, overweight comes first.

Four out of five suffer constantly from at least one, often more than one, chronic condition. And accident rates go up with age, causing many forms of illness and disability among the elderly.



A full one third of the elderly are eking out an existence at or below poverty level. The median income for a single person over 65 in the U.S. is $1,055 per year, for a couple it is $2,530. In the United States more than two million subsist on Social Security alone. A surprisingly large number of others qualify for Social Security but are not getting it because they don't know they qualify.

On welfare in the U.S., the average maximum draw is $184.00 monthly. To get this maximum draw for Old Age Assistance one has to be a very special case.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics corroborated this by compiling a "modest but adequate" budget for the average elderly couple. They priced the basic items considered necessary to life in 20 major cities in the United States, then averaged the costs. Based on this budget the average elderly couple would need $3,010 a year to have even a modest living. Thus with their $2,530 average annual income the average couple does not have enough for even a modest budget. Of course there are variations, but this should give some idea of the problems of poverty many elderly face.

In order to have any type of physically rewarding life at all, an elderly person in this society usually must find some way to augment his income. There are many things that can be done, but what it really boils down to is this: 1) he must either lower his expenses, or 2) find a part-time income, or some other means to supplement his regular income.



Retirement is taking a great deal of the older generation out of the U.S. Labor Force. In 1900, two thirds of all men 65 years and older were working. Currently, according to Bureau of Labor statistics, only one tenth are!

According to these facts, more are retiring. But do they want to? Or are they being forced into retirement? Executives of many manufacturing firms complain of having trouble getting their employees to retire at 65 when they could have retired at 55. Companies are discovering that the vast majority of blue-and white-collar workers who could retire early simply don't want to!

One psychiatrist put it this way: "The trend to earlier retirement can only lead to an increase in mental illness. When people have one of their main aims in life — work — taken away, their incentive is gone. They feel useless."

Many realize that retirement and a life of leisure is not the answer. A man who has spent the past 30 to 50 years on the job cannot be "put out to pasture." The change is just too great.

Of course, for vast numbers, the years spent on a job have not been fulfilling. Perhaps it would be best for them to make the break, switch to something they would enjoy more, perhaps on a part-time basis.

In this society the wisest move any elderly or middle-aged person can make is to plan for his plus-65 years well in advance. The lack of planning has caused untold heartache and misery for far too many elderly already.



One of the major contributors to health problems is the lack of proper nutrition among the elderly. Medical journals state that 75% of our senior population suffers from malnutrition. Some studies reveal that most people over sixty suffer from six to eight nutritional deficiencies. But why do we have such a tragic situation in the Western World?

Many older people have retreated into isolation. They are frightened, confused, and don't feel useful. They develop malnutrition simply because they lack the interest in eating meals alone. Serious health problems can result from malnutrition. Many have not been properly educated as to what constitutes a balanced and nutritious meal.

United States Government programs such as "Meals on Wheels," and "Hot Meals for the Elderly" have been created to combat this problem. But, for lack of funds these programs can reach only a limited, number for a limited time in a limited way.

Yet, health is imperative to success of any kind. Even in the latter years one should continue some form of exercise and watch his diet so he may have good health. Man h what he eats!

Many physicians and surgeons have said that 90 to 95 percent of all sickness and disease comes from a faulty diet! This area, as so many others, badly needs action.

Poor health is merely an effect — an effect of the lifetime habit of poor nutrition or of physical injury. The normal condition of the human body, even during advanced age should be one of robust health, not sickness.



Two thirds of all elderly live in cities. One third are estimated to be living in the deteriorating cores of our large cities. Many are forced to reside in cheap and dirty housing accommodations. Often they share bathroom, refrigerator and telephone. Only five percent of the 20 million elderly live in an institution or rest home. As mentioned, another five percent in addition to these are bedridden shut-ins.

One fourth are residing in rural areas.

Aside from the one in twenty-five living in a rest home, seventeen of every twenty-five American Senior Citizens live with some member of their families (wife or other relative). Nearly seven in twenty-five live with someone not related, or alone!

Recent Census Bureau reports for April 1970 show a sharp gain in the number of older people living alone, away from their families. The number of persons 65 and older who are living alone or with others who are not related increased from 3.2 million in 1960 to 5.2 million in 1970 — an increase of 61%.

A good many of the people over 65 own their own homes. Usually these homes are clear of mortgage debt, but often old, and in bad need of repairs. Many times they are too large for the needs of the elderly. And property taxes never end.

In Britain many of the aged are still residing in the old workhouses which were supposed to be abolished in 1948. Others are staying in post-war homes, voluntary homes, institutions, old people's homes, and a few in their own private homes.