Published On: Mon, Jul 23rd, 2012

Mexico´s Discrimination Against Elderly

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There are 10.8 million people older than 60 years of age living in Mexico, according to the National Council of Population, it is estimated that in 2050 there will be 35 million elderly people. In just a few years this sector of the population will be bigger than the one under 15 years old.

The lack of what can be called a “Getting old Culture” generates abandonment, lack of respect of basic human and legal rights and poverty for millions of Mexicans in this condition.

According to the National Council of Policies Evaluation and Social Development, 7 million elderly are in a poverty situation and 800,000 in extreme poverty. This data is shocking, more than 50%  of grandparents do not have the resources to live with dignity, in addition, 27.9 % consider that their rights have not been respected because of their age.

The National Survey of Discrimination in Mexico (ENDM in Spanish) reveals two interesting peices of data: 61.8 % of the elderly people in Mexico are supported economically by their relatives, and only 2 out of 10 receive a pension granted by an employer. The pension is a privilege that is similair to social security, but at the same time is getting harder to keep, thousands of seniors never had what is considered social benefits. This data clearly explains the need for this sector to work, but at the same time it is virtually impossible for them to be employed, due to the lack of federal laws that prohibit age discrimination.

“Just look at the newspaper in the job section, there are so many job offers that clearly say from 20 to 35 years old, what chances do we have to get a job under these conditions?, President Calderon is older than that, should we tell him?, oh no, you are older than 35 you can´t get the job” Comments Carlos Rojas Pech, a carpenter of 61 years of age.

It is estimated that 29% of the elderly are consider handicapped, the most evident condition is their limitation on transportation in an affordable and safe way.

In Mexico 10 out of 100 elderly consider that the main problem they face is discrimination, according to ENDM. The precarious situation of these persons in Mexico, where their demographic presence is growing, has to change according to specialists in this matter. They agree that it is urgent to generate public policies to meet the basic needs, as well as to respect the rights of this human condition.

“First of all, the rights of the elderly are the same as any other person, we have to enforce their right on health, education and employment.” said Laura Bermejo from the organization “Free Access”.

The Elderly People Act is a federal law that has been sitting for three years in Congress, because it lacks the necessary rules to be enacted.

“This law is a legal empty space, we have been working for three years on it, and it is time for the legislators to take care of the issue, it is a law that lacks the necessary rules, it is just a catalog of good intentions. This law has the enormous disadvantage of not being coercive, it establishes the rights and what we have to do to support the elderly, but it does not define a penalization or punishment if it is broken.” Explains Alejandro Orozco, president of the National Institute of the Elderly People (INAPAM).

Society and institutions are not the only ones responsible; the family plays an important role, if not the most significant. “When we reach a certain age, we start suffering many health problems,” says Enedina Garcia, who is 75 and suffers from diabetes, hypertension and a back problem. However, Enedina takes care of her health problems in an IMSS clinic, there she says, the doctors and nurses treat her well, even with affection. When it is necessary, her children gather the money to buy her the meds and the supplies she needs. “Now I need a belt that costs 400 pesos, and I’m already waiting for my children to buy it for me.”

Gloria Torres has a different reality: “When you’re old the children forget about you, they deny the responsibility to their parents, they are very ungrateful, they do not remember we took care of them when they needed to eat, to change the diapers, to bath them and so on.”

Genaro Castaneda is one more history out of thousands; his face darkens when he speaks of the disaster that means for him the abandonment from family and friends. “It is death not having the people who once were close to you. Unfortunately, the older we get, we are left behind like an animal lying in the street. Abandonment is a disaster in the life of a person”

Alejandro Orozco mentions four axes on which he believes the society and institution has to work on the matter.

“First is the “getting old culture” that involves the family and relatives directly. Nowdays there are very few workshops, classes or conferences aimed to the youth in order to deal and be aware of the senile condition. The next three, concerns the institutions to generate employment opportunities, discounts in different companies and government offices, and lastly, guarantee health services to get old in an active and healthy way. These actions will renew the economical stability, the social protection and the full recognition of their rights as individual persons.”

In December 2011, the Congress of Yucatan approved and economical support to adults older than 75 years old, 7,500 people were eligible out of the 90,000 senior people in the state. A small pension of $500 pesos per month was assigned to this vulnerable sector of the population, since then the local legislature has not done anything else to guarantee their rights on health, education and employment.

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