A desk review on the situation of older persons in Jamaica has revealed that many face severe economic hardships and are barely able to feed themselves and cover their medical expenses.
The 2011 review, which was conducted by Help Age International for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), also points to "growing evidence" of the denial of their social, economic and cultural rights, stating that many are victims of physical, financial, sexual and psychological abuse often at the hands of persons in their homes.
The review comes ahead of today's observance of International Day of Older Persons and the worldwide launch of the UNFPA's report on older persons - titled Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and a Challenge - which is being released in keeping with the 2002 Madrid Declaration on Ageing, to which Jamaica is a signatory.
It states that a lack of income security is the single most important concern of older people in Jamaica and in other parts of the developing world.
"In Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, many older persons complain of the lack of funds to purchase food and medication and pay utility bills. It is not uncommon to hear older persons indicate that they usually have to make a choice between spending their meagre resources on food and medicine," the review states.
Older persons, defined as those 60 years and over, currently make up approximately 11 per cent of Jamaica's 2.7 million inhabitants, UNFPA said.
The review points to inadequate coverage of older persons under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
"Many older persons...held very low paying jobs, and would not have been able to make contributions to NIS schemes. However, there is a worrying trend among employers who fail to pay over contributions on behalf of their employees," the review states.
"The coverage of older persons benefiting under PATH is not at sufficient levels. The data shows a coverage gap of 180,323 persons or 60.2 per cent of the older population not accessing benefits under the programme. Bearing in mind the demographic shifts taking place in population ageing in Jamaica, specifically the growing number of persons living beyond 75 years, the low level and reach of social protection coverage has serious implications for poverty among older persons," it adds.
In relation to abuse, the review cites physical abuse as being "the most notable form of violence meted out to older persons", stating that 4,000 older persons were victims of major crimes between 2000 and 2005.
"There are a range of documented cases from HelpAge International-commissioned reports, which support the current situation of violence, abuse and discrimination against older persons and the fact that legislation is either inadequate or non-existent to protect the group," says the review.
The review also cites other challenges older persons face in terms of housing and their living environment. It says while many owned their homes, they had a difficulty maintaining them.
Additionally, it cited as an area of concern the lack of consideration for older persons in disaster and mitigation planning.
Among the recommendations are for the revision of the National Policy for Senior Citizens in keeping with the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, the adoption of legislation to protect older persons, and for the centralisation of operations involving older persons.
The theme of this year's commemoration is "Longevity: Shaping the future