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Rural Aging Issues
around the World

- Archives 2009 -

Articles in Arabic | Chinese | French | Russian | Spanish


Kenya: A Moment with Dandora Women Care Givers (March 26, 2009)
Damaris Wanjiku, 63 years old and a widow, has not only continued to take care of her children but their children as well. Dandora, a dumping site for Nairobi, is a mixture of shanty and decent houses. Its over 600,000 habitants are mainly jobless and have little formal education. Most of the caregivers here are 50 years or older. Because many of the grandparents are old and weak, some orphaned grandchildren tend to live without direction and fall into the trap of HIV/AIDS. Many older people dealing with HIV have to meet extra expenses such as health care, school fees and burial costs despite having no regular income.

Tanzania: HelpAge Project Highlighted for Comic Relief (March 12, 2009)
Accusations against older women in rural Tanzania are leading to violence and even murder. Many attacks go unreported, but it is estimated that some 1,000 people in Tanzania lose their lives annually to witchcraft-related violence, with the majority being women over age 50. Perpetrators often target old women, especially widows, due to their low status, low levels of literacy and inability to defend themselves. This situation was reported as part of a program for older women’s rights.

Americas & Caribbean 

Cuba: Cuba Ages “Rapidly” and Tries to Adapt (January 6, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Cuba will become the oldest country in the continent within the next two or three decades. The country must prepare itself for this transition. One of the things officials are looking into is building more nursing homes and senior day care facilities. Older people are facing living alone the last years of their lives as their children migrate to other countries, leaving them behind.

Asia Pacific

Bangladesh: Ever so Vulnerable to Storms, Floods and Sea Level Rises (December 31, 2009)
In Bangladesh, people--especially vulnerable ones like the elderly--are facing the consequences of climate change. Abbasuddin Mollah, a 60-year-old farmer, explains that he has to live on and cultivate flood-prone land. Consequently, because of the salty water, the fields are dying and he can't grow anything any more. Unfortunately, things are going to get worse. Two-thirds of the country is only five meters above sea level. According to a recent report of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Bangladesh is the country most vulnerable to tropical cyclones and sixth most vulnerable to floods. The government is trying to help people, but if sea and salinity levels rise, millions of Bangladeshis could be displaced and become "climate change refugees."

China: 76 Percent of Older Persons Receive Less Than 500 Yuan (December 2, 2009)
(Article in Chinese)
As young people move into the big cities, many older parents are left at home in remote rural areas in China. There are 20 million people living in rural areas who are 65 years or older. And 76% of older persons receive less than 500 yuan per year from their children. The more remote and poorer they are, the more likely they are to live alone. It is time for Chinese society to start tackling this problem.

China: “Vanished” Older Persons (November 3, 2009)
(Article in Chinese)
Each individual has to register in the Hukou system in China. Many older persons in rural areas, however, have found that they were registered as “dead” on their Hukou. Thus, these people can no longer enjoy their benefits from the government. This case reveals the corruption in local government. 

China: A New Plan for Elderly (October 27, 2009)
(Article in Chinese)
Rapid urbanization is driving older people into isolation. Spending very little time with children at home, older persons tend to experience loneliness, anxiety or depression. Local communities can provide older persons with a place to socialize and stay involved. Government must give special attention to rural areas because large numbers of older people feel left alone as their children have “floated” to big cities for jobs. 

China: Stable Development of Social Security in China (September 9, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The Minister of Human Resources and Social Security in China, Yin Huimin, reports that the people living in rural and urban areas have benefited from the various social security plans that the government initiated. On September 1, 2009, the Chinese Government began an experimental program related to old age financial security in rural areas that will cover all residents older than 16 years. This new program canl significantly improve the quality of rural life and will also promote the development of the rural economy and greater social harmony. 

India: Social Security for Elderly in India (August 10, 2009)
China developed a new Social Security system in accordance with its National Human Rights Action Plan 2009-10. India feels that not having a separate department for social security is a mockery of human rights. In 1999, India launched the National Policy for Older Persons, providing protection against abuse and exploitation, enlisting older persons’ participation within society and improving their quality of life. However, this plan is far from sufficient. India wants to set up new policies that would take into account problems of the elderly in agricultural areas, and would acknowledge the diversity in the lives of the aged in rural and other areas. 

China: Experts Ask for More Help for the Elderly in China (August 2, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Poll-takers in some regions of China have found support for giving more help to older persons among the population. Older people in China’s vast rural areas have few services; health and pension systems need to be improved. To achieve this goal, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is carrying out an experimental program to try to address the problems faced by the elderly in rural areas in China. How about re-instituting the “barefoot doctors” whose efforts proved useful in the past.

China: New Rural Social Old-age Welfare Program will launch in August (July 27, 2009)
(Article in Chinese) 
A new type of rural social old-age insurance will begin in August 2009. It covers about 10% of the counties (cities) within the country. In addition, in the second half of the year, China will upgrade the level of social security benefits in a number of urban and rural areas, including full medical insurance for urban residents.

Report: Thailand: Psychological Wellbeing, Physical Impairments and Rural Aging in a Developing Country Setting (July 2009)
The study of wellbeing has received international interest, leading to the need to evaluate positive dimensions of health care programs. Wellbeing, physical impairments and disability in older people in developing countries have received very little attention in the past. Improving community disability services for older people and optimizing received social support will be vital in rural areas in developing countries.

Report: Cambodia: Guideline for the Establishment and Management of Older People’s Associations (OPAs) (May 2009)
In Cambodia the proportion of older people is growing, increasing from 4.4% in 2000 to 6% by 2004. Most elders live in rural regions where poverty and poor health are most severe. With technical and financial support from the National Committee for Population and Development and UNFPA, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, and Help Age International, citizens founded some 130 Older People’s Associations (OPA) nationwide. An OPA, a community-based organization, tries to improve the well being of older people through collective activities benefiting themselves and their community. The report explains in detail how to establish and maintain an OPA.

Thailand: Aging Sets Worrying Trend (April 13, 2009)
Thailand’s population is aging faster than any other country in Southeast Asia except Singapore. Almost one in five persons will be over 60 by 2025 and nearly one in three by 2050. It is likely that the labor market consequences of this shift will affect Thailand’s productivity because older people, particularly in rural areas, are susceptible to poverty. A lot of the older workers work more than 50 hours a week, the same as younger workers, but their wages are much lower.

China: Difficulty in Countryside Empty-Nest Old People Service (March 17, 2009)
(Article in Chinese)
A Chinese National Association of Aging report shows that most current difficulties of rural empty-nest older people come from weakness in family support and insufficient social care for old people. Right now there are 32,880,000 households of empty-nest older people living in China’s rural areas, 48.9% of all countryside households. Why are there so many smaller families and more empty-nest older people? Experts point to the “one-child” policy since the 1970’s, the extension of life spans and the massive movement of young labor from rural areas to urban centers.

Report: Australia: Transition Care: Helping Older Territorians Regain their Independence (April 14, 2009)
The Australian government’s $293.3 million Transition Care Program has helped many older people in the Northern Territories since November 2007, allowing most of them to move from hospitals and back to their own homes. Transition care provides low intensity therapy services, such as physiotherapy, dietetics, podiatry and personal care. Indigenous elders, who are community leaders, find transition care very helpful since they can return to caring for their families and communities. In this way transition care improves not only individual but the community.

Report: China: Social Security for China’s Rural Aged: A Proposal Based on a Universal Non-Contributory Pension (January 2009)
China’s relative lack of social security coverage for rural elders exacerbates the rural-urban economic disparity, slows the rate of rural poverty reduction, and raises social justice concerns. This analysis draws on evidence from interviews with experts on China and offers some suggestions for Chinese policy makers such as serious consideration of a universal non-contributory old-age pension. 

Report: India: Ageing, Socio-Economic Disparities and Health Outcomes: Some Evidence from Rural India (2009)
Professor Moneer Alam has written an important study describing older Indians in the rural areas where the great majority live. Few have access to minimal health facilities or income. Alam documents the “femininzation of rural aging” as well as the terrible toll that poverty asserts on the likelihood of good health in old age. 

Europe and Central Asia

France: Getting Old in Rural Areas (December 16, 2009) 
(Article in French) 
A recent French study about aging in rural areas reveals that retirees in rural areas are more dependent and have frailer health than older persons in cities. However, 70% of them are happy with their current life, mostly thanks to strong familial support that allows them to stay at home. Finally, concerning leisure activities, the study emphasizes the preference given to physical engagement, such as daily walks and gardening. 

Spain: Rights of the Rural World (November 23, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The Association for Intergenerational Solidarity, created three months ago, offers services to older persons in rural areas. With an increasing older population and in the absence of  necessary services for rural elders in Spain, people are creating new service networks. In this example, the Intergenerational Association is organizing a fifty-hour course for caregivers of older persons who live in dependent situations in rural areas.

Russia: The Geography of the Crisis: Potemkin's Provinces (November 18, 2009) (Article in Russian) 
As a result of the financial crisis, some Russian provinces are receiving less aid, especially in poor regions. Federal aid often does not reach many districts. However, regions are not allowed to “directly” cut their social programs. Thus, they optimize their costs for older people by placing homeless children with them in their homes.Organizations helping handicapped retirees see their resources dwindling as well. The authors says that federal money is often spent “in vain” by not going to the most needed regions and programs.

Uzbekistan: The Smell of Independence in Gazalkent (November 5, 2009) 
(Article in Russian) 
In the small town of Gazalkent in Uzbekistan--which has a primitive infrastructure, where the average citizen makes 100 dollars a month and where transportation to the capital Tashkent costs 50 dollars an hour--retirees are struggling more than anyone else. For more than two months they did not receive their pension payments. After the President's announcement in July that all pensions would be available at the Bank of the People on their “plastic card,” all mailing services were closed in the town where retirees normally receive the pensions. Now retirees who are not able to go to the bank on their own must wait for cashiers from that bank to come to their home. Cashiers, however, do not have time because there are too few of them in the town to take on this duty. They don't consider distributing pensions to local households to be their responsibility.

Spain: Vocational Labor Training and “Greater Sensitivity” on the Part of the Institutions are Essential for Rural Women (November 4, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
From a total of 280,000 women integrated into 1,300 associations in Castilla and León, some 53% live in rural areas. Throughout Spain, older people are becoming the new majority because the younger ones have left for the cities. This exodus is depopulating the Spanish countryside. People’s Associations help challenge the economic and population decline in rural areas. It is essential that public administration and governments be more sensitive to women’s problems and give them more accessible channels for communication and information. 

Spain: Price of Life in Los Valles (November 1, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Around 200 people live in the rural areas of Los Valles, Spain. As the Spanish rural population ages, many younger people leave their homes for the cities. Lacking focused centers, older persons find it difficult to have a normal life. The seniors living in the rural zones have been fighting for their rights for many years. Now they feel that the government has let them

Spain: “Nuevos Senderos” Lead to Increase in Population in Rural Areas (October 26, 2009)
(Article in Spanish) 
The Ministry of Employment and Immigration and the European Social Fund, together with CEPAIM (Organization for Action and Support of Immigrants), are developing a project to increase the population of rural Spain. The name of the project is “Nuevos Senderos,” which translated means “New Paths.” This program would develop rural municipalities that are facing depopulation, offering the possibility of stabilizing and even increasing the population. People living in some rural areas have already witnessed positive results due to this initiative. 

Spain: How to Rejuvenate the Rural World: Caring for Older Persons (October 23, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Many writers have seized the Dependency Law in Spain as an opportunity to confront the problem of a depopulating rural world. One third of persons with dependents live in rural areas. The law may reach directly more than million inhabitants in rural areas and create more services for older persons’ care. If planners create services specifically for older persons in the villages, they will also generate more jobs and hopefully help rejuvenate rural Spain. 

Spain: In Rural Areas Population of 70's and Older Is 21.6 % (October 19, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The Spanish government learned that 21.6 % of the population in the rural areas of Palencia, Spain, are 70 years and older. Unfortunately, older people in rural areas suffer high rates of disability. Very soon about 750,000 persons in these areas will be incapable of caring for themselves. They live far from the government’s centers for older people and don’t have local access to assistive services in their rural areas. Could this long distance from help also contribute to the increasing numbers of older persons with disabilities. Perhaps researchers in other parts of the world will begin to document that wide gulf in life chances for rural and urban aged in their home countries.

Spain: The Hands That Sustain the Field (October 15, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Women (most of them seniors) represent 40.6% of the population in the rural areas of Spain. In 2008, women became pioneers in starting new agricultural businesses. The data, gathered by the Rural Council, reveals that they have also improved methods for grazing cattle. Carmen Rodríguez, who presides over the Association of Women Farmers and pioneered in the fight for women’s rights in rural areas, believes that a lot has been accomplished, but more remains to be done.

Spain: The Day of Rural Women Alerts Cabanillas of the Problem of Isolation (October 6, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Mari Martinez, Councilwoman of Social Welfare in the City Council of Cabanillas, presented a tribute to women commemorating the Day of Rural Women. Mrs. Martinez announced that women in rural areas, who in most cases live longer than men, continue to be victims of inequality, abandonment and isolation. Councilwoman Martinez emphasized the need to accept ageing of women in rural areas as something normal that entails both challenges and opportunities. 

Spain: In Two Months 320 Loans Designated for Rural Areas Have Been Approved (October 4, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Eight local action groups worked together to insure that rural areas become more attractive for future generations. The groups started a program for rural development as a tool used by both central and regional administrations to improve the quality of life of persons who live in rural areas, to increase the economic activity and employment rate and at the same time slow down the pace of aging and depopulation of the rural areas. 

Spain: Alava is Aging and Becoming Mostly Populated by Men (September 30, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Every day women leave the smallest villages in the Spanish province of Alava contributing to its fast-paced depopulation. They are searching for better work opportunities in larger cities. Older people who make up about 16% of the population over 69 years stay in the villages for the remainder of their lives. This new situation means that the government must create more external social services for older persons living in these rural areas.

France: Monclar. Rural Older Persons Bring Rural Areas to Life (September 22, 2009)
(Article in French)
The writer underlines the key role of organizations in enlivening rural areas. By organizing events, cultural and physical activities, rural older persons no longer feel isolated. Moreover, a bonus for being involved in the activities is that it becomes easier for older persons to stay at home instead of being placed in a nursing home.

Spain: The Therapeutic Power of the Smile (September 20, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The town of Amoeiro has adopted a psychological program to combat the isolation of older persons. Participants in the program use the therapeutic power of the smile and conversation to overcome the isolation, depression and anxiety that are widespread among older persons in rural areas. The program’s activities and exercises serve as a way to escape the everyday routine in the rural world.

Spain: Depopulation: A Serious Problem for More than 20 Municipalities (September 13, 2009)

(Article in Spanish)
The progressive aging of the population of Malaga has brought on depopulation in more than 20 municipalities in this Spanish province. The lack of basic infrastructure (sanitary, educational) and the great distance to centers offering aging services are among the reasons for the depopulation. However, in recent years, Malaga has experienced a slowdown in the process of depopulation. Only a decade ago the number of areas affected was more than 50. In order to continue to improve, the state must increase public support for rural areas affected by depopulation.

Spain: Central, Autonomous and Provincial Administrations Invested 1.7 Million Euros in Rural Areas (September 11, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The Rural and Marine Ministries of Environment invested more than one million euros with the intention of improving the infrastructure in rural zones in Galicia. Most rural areas are experiencing depopulation and a great increase in the numbers of older residents. The Ministries want to establish a stable framework for cooperation among the different governing units to improve the quality of life in the rural areas in Galicia.

Spain: In the River Basins of Asturias are Concentrated Half of the 638 Abandoned Villages (September 9, 2009)
(Article in Spanish) 
The National Statistics Institute in Spain researchers announced that the majority of the Spanish rural regions are declining in population. The reason for this depopulation is the rapid process of aging and the emigration of younger people. In order to slow the process of depopulation in rural areas, the mayors and their advisors are undertaking special measures such as repairing streets and bridges and funding local projects. 

France: Atlas of Medical Demography 2009: Serious Threats to Treatment Access (September 8, 2009) 
(Article in French) 
In the 2009 edition of its Atlas of Medical Demography, the National Council of the Order of Physicians underlines the decline in numbers of physicians. The aging of the medical profession and the decrease of new doctors settling in France, threaten access to treatment, especially in the rural areas. Indeed, aging medical practitioners and fewer specialists to provide treatment increase regional disparities, already a concern in the French health picture.

Spain: More than 50 Municipalities Unite Efforts to Attract Residents (August 30, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The Spanish Association of Municipalities officers decided to combine the efforts of 53 municipalities to attract residents from the rural areas and those affected most by depopulation and ageing. The Association suggested trying to attract residents in these areas by offering housing and work to the people who would enjoy living in a village.

Spain: Memory, Health and Emotion Part of Web Page to Improve Ageing (August 26, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The Clinic Foundation and the Delegation of Leon created a web page, tutambien.es (you too), with the goal of preventing memory loss, dealing with the isolation of the rural world and improving the process of ageing. They invested 18,000 euros in this project with a focus on health, memory and emotion.

Spain: Rural World, the Bottle Half Full (August 24, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
Demographers are charting the rapid decrease in population among older people the Spanish provinces. However, in the case of the rural community of Leon, we must view the bottle as half full. Half full means that the infrastructure, the communication systems and the transportation existing today are more advanced than in the past. For those who are older, better services make old age more comfortable, whether in large municipalities or in rural settings.

Spain: Sustainable Development Law Starts New Project in Villuercas and Liberia (August 21, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
The Ministry of Agriculture and Development is launching a program for sustainable development in March in areas where the level of rent, unemployment and aging of the population present an obstacle for development. Among the proposed projects are the creation of tourist walkways, natural pools, recreational areas and others. These projects will help create economic opportunities in rural areas.

Ireland: Study on Ageing in Rural Areas (July 21, 2009)
The National University of Ireland Galway has announced plans to explore “healthy ageing” in rural communities in Ireland. The study will involve research in social care, public health, gerontology, economics, spatial planning and rural geography. Kieran Walsh of NUIG’s Irish Center for Social Gerontology implies that this study is long overdue, saying that many older people live in rural Ireland and policymakers don’t understand their way of life.

France: A National Plan to Fight the Heat Wave (June 25, 2009)
(Article in French)
France set up a national plan to protect older people and other vulnerable groups during heat waves. This plan is very important in the south of France where it can be very hot during the summer. It is based on two main principles: solidarity and prevention. In France, one fifth of the population is over 75. This national plan aims to help older persons protect themselves against the heat and also to make sure they are never left alone.

Kyrgyzstan: Winter Diaries: Voices of Older People in Kyrgyzstan (March 5, 2009)

An audio-visual project developed by HelpAge International reveals the experiences of older persons during severe winters in Kyrgyzstan. Temperatures in Kyrgyzstan routinely fall below -20 degrees, yet shortages in gas and electricity supplies mean that many are unable to heat their homes. In order to afford this fuel, elders are spending less for food, with many surviving on just bread and tea each day.

Spain: The Older Population is “Tremendously Precarious,” According to a Study by The Institute of Consumption of Extremadura and UGT (February 17, 2009)
(Article in Spanish)
A recent study determined that 66% of older persons in the region live in rural areas with less than 20,000 people. An estimated 6 in 10 live in economic difficulty; the average senior citizen receives between 400 to 700 euros a month. The rural isolation of the region has made it difficult to collect information regarding the problems older persons face. Officials only now are beginning to understand the severity of the situation.

Report: Spain: The Masculinization and the Process of Aging are a Threat to the Sustainability of the Spanish Rural World (2009)
(Report in Spanish)
At a time when conditions of life and the economy are improving in Spain, researchers notice that rural areas are losing population and experiencing social and demographic imbalance. The study finds that for every 100 men, there are 80 women who live in the rural areas, which changes the pattern of reproduction. On the other hand, the rural areas continue to be home for older persons. In many villages the average age of the population is 70 years. The process of masculinization and aging of the population places the sustainability of the rural Spanish world in a great risk.

Report: Spain: Aging, Social Services and Rural Development (2009)
(Report in Spanish)
Staff at the Institute for Older Persons and Social Services organized a conference on “Aging, Social Services and Rural Development” to analyze the situation of older persons in Spanish rural areas. The authors show that aging occurs progressively in rural areas. Older rural people face many difficulties accessing services, living in isolated areas and often suffer from timidity among others. Intending to improve rural elders’ life, the Institute suggests creating multifunctional service centers for older persons, one-stop for eldercare services!

Report: Spain: The Development of near-by Services for Older Persons Living in Rural Areas (2009)
(Report in Spanish)

Older people need near-by services to help them with aging problems. Spanish experts suggest that local people improve their already existing services and create new ones that can help them with unmet needs. Older Spaniards say that they want accessible transportation, food deliveries to their homes, technical assistance with equipment and machines, companion services, mobile libraries and a number of other services to make their lives better in isolated agricultural or mountain communities


Middle East and North Africa

Palestine: Saving the Planet by Taking Older People Back to Nature (May 15, 2009)
(Article in Arabic)

Often governments and organizations target young people as the group responsible for protecting the future of the environment. Recently however, the Center for the Elderly and the Social Welfare Department in the municipality of Sakhnin (an Arab-Israeli city) arranged a “day in nature” for senior citizens. Hundreds of older people participated in this rural gathering that attempted to “go back to nature.” They took part in a series of traditional cultural activities to emphasize the historical and spiritual link between people and land, helping to generate a sense of social responsibility for the environment. 


Iraq: Fears of a Declining Voter Participation Rate Affect Rural Iraq Especially Among Senior Citizens (January 24, 2009)
(Article in Arabic)

A recent report from the Agency for the Iraqi Voice shows that voting centers in Iraq located far from rural villages reduce voter turnout especially among senior citizens. The long and often arduous journey to major urban centers could potentially impact the 50% of Iraqis who live in the countryside. For older persons, this percentage could be much higher. Citizens criticize the government’s failure to provide easily accessible polling stations or, at the least, a means of transportation for older people.



Report: Life-Course Events and Later-Life Employment (June 2008)
Researchers compare whether early or later life issues are more important in determining when a person will leave the work force. Early life issues include education, parental background and family formation. Problems of health, disability and pension savings influence late life decisions. The report also demonstrates how men and women face these choices differently.

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