An elderly woman. [illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
During the cold winter months, low-income elderly people are often forced to choose between heating their home or buying food or medications, says Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
The IFCJ released statistics on Thursday gathered by some 2,000 volunteers participating in the organization’s annual “Operation Warmth,” a heating project for the elderly launched earlier this month.
“The strength of a society is measured in the way it cares for its weakest links,” Eckstein said. “Approximately one-quarter of the elderly in Israel are living in a state of poverty and are not able to cover their monthly expenses.
The government assistance they receive is barely enough to cover half of the elderly’s basic needs as long as the cost of living keeps rising.”
According to the IFCJ’s findings, 10 percent of Israel’s elderly cannot afford to eat a hot meal at least once a day, and 20 percent forgo using hot water due to the high costs.
The statistics were collected by IFCJ volunteers during hundreds of home visits throughout Israel. They used a unique smart-phone application developed by the IFCJ to collect data – in real time – on the living conditions of the country’s disadvantaged elderly.
The findings further indicate that one in five of the homes surveyed by volunteers did not have sufficient insulation, and one in four suffered from serious dampness.
As part of the heating campaign, the IFCJ has distributed NIS 8.5 million in heating grants to some 25,000 impoverished elderly eligible for the Nursing Care Law and receiving old-age benefits, including income supplements.
The grants, totaling NIS 350 per person, were provided in the form of a check that could be cashed at any bank. They were distributed by social workers and IFCJ volunteers in 62 local authorities that do not receive National Insurance Institute heating grants for the elderly.
“In the winter months, the distress of the elderly worsens and many of them are forced to make an impossible choice between heating their home, buying food or buying medications,” Eckstein said. “As a society, we cannot allow this situation to continue. I call out to the public to join us and help the elderly heat their homes and their hearts.”