Monday, October 10, 2016

Situation of the Elderly in Korea

Both Catholic papers and the Kyeonyang magazine remembering Oct. 1st, the  International Day of the Elderly,  had front page space on the issue and the magazine had a series of articles on the situation in Korea. The aging of Korea is one of the fastest in the world and consequently little time for  preparation.  Spirituality for  the elderly needs to be emphasized. In Korea we have help  with the phrases used  often in society: 'well living' and 'well dying'.

In a recent seminar on the situation of aging, faith and spirituality  a bishop mentioned the need to prepare the elderly to live fulfilled lives and know how to prepare for death. In Society and within the Church there has been a movement for 'Group Homes' for the Elderly.

By 2017 the number of elderly will be over seven million which will be 14% of the population. In 2025  it is estimated we will have over 10 million. In 2000 those living alone were about 540 thousand which was 3.7 % of the total families. In 2010  this reached one million. In 2013 this  rose again to 1 million 250 thousand which is 7% of the total number of families. 20% of the total number of the elderly are  estimated to be living alone.

There are  no  systematic programs in place to take care of the problems of the  sick, and those dying alone. We have few  statistics on what is happening. According to a report in 2014  we have 55. 5 suicides  for every 100,000 of the population, the highest in the world.  As the aging population increases, problems increase,  one of the articles mentioned the need for Group Homes. These homes provide the elderly with the care they need and living in an environment that is comfortable and personal similar to their own home.

The first Group Home was introduced into Korea in 1995, called a home for the aged. According to the Department of Welfare, places that can be called Group Homes  in 2015  numbered 131, a decrease from the 142 from the previous year, a sadness which the writer laments. They take care of about 1000 seniors.

One of the articles by a scholar  on problems of the aged laments that many of the elders have worked for the nation, society and the family and now they are neglected. The families of many have turned their back on them. Many have broken hearts hurting economically,  mentally, emotionally and we shouldn't  overlook this reality.  This will be  the self-portrait of our young people.

We all have a desire to live long lives. In the Old Testament this was considered a blessing. In the  ancient Roman world the average age of the citizens was about 22 years.  Koreans average age from 1926-30 was 33.8 years.  In 2013  for men it was  78.5 and women was 85.1. If we live to be over a  hundred  half of our life will be living as an elder. 

"Do not abandon yourself to sorrow, do not torment yourself with brooding. Gladness of heart is life to a man, joy is what gives him length of days" 

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