In this edition: 

  • Philippines: Appeal for aid to support elderly
  • Ireland: Caring women in focus
  • US: Gender differences in care giving and work
  • UK: Impact of ageing population overstated


Philippines: Appeal for aid to support elderly

In the two weeks since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, HelpAge International and its partner the Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE) report they have distributed aid to 20,000 of the most vulnerable people in the area around Ormoc City on Leyte Island.

With 11 million affected people, the organisation says that one of the biggest obstacles to delivering aid has been narrow roads strewn with heavy debris. Normal access to food has been severely curtailed, with many rice storage buildings ruined.

Shelter is also a key priority and 100 tents have been provided to those most in need, according to HelpAge. The organisation says it has heard reports that some evacuation centres are no longer able to accommodate even vulnerable older people because of the damage they sustained.

HelpAge reports: “Only a small number of older people appear to have been abandoned or are unaccompanied, but many people will require psycho-social services for the trauma they have suffered and many medicines for non-communicable diseases, which particularly affect older people, are running out. As more older people are being evacuated from hard-hit areas such as Tacloban, HelpAge and COSE will be working with local groups to provide older volunteers to help and support the older people living in evacuation centres in Manila and Cebu.”

COTA Victoria recently launched an appeal for funds to assist HelpAge International.

“This is an opportunity to learn from our recent history — in the Japanese earthquake, people over 60 represented 64 per cent of deaths. This time, we must not forget older victims,” said COTA.

Visit HelpAge International to make a donation.

Ireland: Caring women in focus

New research from Trinity College, Dublin has shone light on Ireland’s sandwich generation – women aged 50 to 69 who provide care and support for both their parents and children. It is estimated the sandwich generation accounts for 31 per cent of all community-dwelling women of that age group.

The research by Christine McGarrigle and Rose Anne Kenny comes from the first wave of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing.

It found that half of all sandwich generation women provide substantial time supporting their parents. One third provide support towards basic and personal care such as dressing, eating and bathing for an average of 21 hours per week, and more than half give household help with chores, transportation and shopping.

One third of sandwich generation women look after their grandchildren for an average of 34 hours per month.

Nine per cent provide financial support to their parents, an average of €2,000 in the last two years, and two thirds to their children, an average of €3,000 in the last two years.

The report noted that later childbirth combined with adults living longer indicates that the sandwich generation will become more relevant. “More women will be caring for dependent children and elderly parents while also playing a more active role in the workforce.”

It also noted that the “climate of austerity” in Ireland following the financial crisis there in 2008 “may impact on the ability of both elderly parents and younger adult children to financially support themselves, thus the sandwich generation may be increasingly called upon to support both generations, both financially and with their time, which will put further pressures on this vital generation.”

Read the full report here.

US: Gender differences in care giving and work

And in a similar vein to the Irish study, the New York Times reports on new research published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology which suggests that female caregivers are less likely to participate in the labour force. For men, on the other hand, caregiving has no impact on employment status.

The authors, two professors of social work, unearthed these patterns in national data gathered in 2004 in the Health and Retirement Study. They found that 7 per cent of women assisted with parents’ personal needs, compared to 3.6 per cent of men. Close to 16 per cent of men helped parents with chores, errands and transportation, compared to more than 20 per cent of women.

Women were significantly less likely to be in the labour force if they were providing personal care for parents or caring for grandchildren, or if they were caregivers for more than one person, the Times article notes. Among men, care giving had no relationship to employment status.

UK: Impact of ageing population overstated

Finally, on a positive note, new research from the UK says that population ageing isn’t a ticking time bomb as some would suggest. According to a Press Association report, Jeroen Spijker and John MacInnes from the University of Edinburgh claim that the extent, speed and effect of an ageing population have all been exaggerated.

They say the standard indicator of population ageing – the old age dependency ratio (OADR) – does not take proper account of falling mortality. They also say that the numbers of dependent older people in the UK and other countries have actually been falling in recent years.

Population ageing is a concern in all developed countries around the world.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “We agree that the dominant narrative among policymakers about ageing is far too gloomy, because it fails to factor in the impact of current and future improvements in healthcare, among many other positive factors.

“It’s good that there is growing awareness that we live in an ageing society, but we need politicians and commentators to take a more balanced view and acknowledge that previous generations would envy our longer lives as a great gift.”

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