Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Mexico's "tercera edad:" the lonely face of its disgarded senior citizens
In Spanish "la tercera edad" means the "third age," or the "third generation." In English we translate the term as senior citizen.
According to Mexico’s 2010 census, the median age in this country is 26. Therein lays the primary obstacle faced today by those of the "third age." There is no place for these people in a nation where the young are regarded as equitably entitled to a first shot at employment. The government says that 10.1 million people over 60 years of age have insufficient income to sustain themselves. By 2050, say experts, 28% of the population will be age 60 or over. Of that estimated 34 million people, about 15 million will be unable to secure the basic necessities of life.
"Nobody wants to hire an old woman," Elena told a CNN interviewer. A local church allows her to teach catechism. She receives some food in return, but is otherwise unpaid. In a 2010 national survey, nine out of 10 seniors said it was difficult to get work, and 66% said it was very difficult to get government assistance. Among women seniors, a staggering 76% cannot provide for themselves.
Social scientists here say that senior citizens are frequently discriminated against, along with children and those with physical or mental disabilities. They’re regarded as unproductive, and they’re an unrepresented constituency in Mexican politics. "Society’s obligation and that of the state to senior citizens should be the same as it is to children – to create conditions which enable them to fully develop and to utilize all their potential," concluded a Mexican governmental commission last year.
Elena has no pension, and she’s grateful that her children took her in and provide her with necessities. But she wishes that people would not regard her as useless, when she still has the strength and the desire to contribute something to society. "But no one sees us that way," she says.
at 10:01 PM