In Mexico, about 47 percent of people over the age of 60 live in poverty and between 20 and 30 percent of those experience physical, psychological or economical violence and abandonment, according to new research from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
"By 2050, the life expectancy of Mexicans will be at 85 or 86 years old, but living longer doesn't imply better life quality," said Mario Enrique Tapia on Mexico's 'Day of the Elderly' on August 28. "Unfortunately, the environment and context of elderly in our territory is not favorable, and we're indeed reaching older ages, but in worse conditions."
The situation is expected to worse as a result of Mexico's ageing population. Today, about 8.9 percent of Mexicans – about 10 million people –are elderly, but experts suggest they will represent about 30 percent of the population by 2050. Women are most affected, due to social structures.
Tapia stressed the need to reform the health system because elderly patients visit the doctor four times more than other demographic groups while their costs are about seven times higher, because many suffer from chronic diseases or disabilities.
More research is needed to prevent diseases and other symptoms related to age, Tapia said, because the health model for the elderly has not changed in 40 years. The plight of the elderly is further exacerbated by a shortage of social workers, nurses and medical staff specializing in care for the elderly.
Most older people in Mexico are cared for by relatives who often lack the proper knowledge or capacity to correctly treat the elderly, especially those with special health or economic conditions.
Public health policies should be put in place to guarantee better quality of life as people advance in age, safeguarding human rights, appropriate care, and preventing abandonment, Tapia said.