Tens of thousands of elderly forgo heat, food, says survey

“For the elderly, giving up food, medications or heating can sometimes be a death sentence,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the IFCJ.

An elderly woman. [illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
An elderly woman. [illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Substantial numbers of elderly citizens go without essentials such as food, medicine and heating because they can’t afford them, a new survey by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has found.
The survey of a representative sample of 400 men and women 65 and older was conducted by the Geo-cartography Institute for the IFCJ, with a 4.9 percentage point margin of error.
According to the poll, 18 percent of the elderly population go without home heating, while 16% forgo basic necessities, particularly food, to pay for heat. A third of all elderly citizens must forgo either heating, hot water, food, medicine or other needs for financial reasons the study found.
Approximately 40% of those who forgo heating in the winter, amounting to some 59,000 people, have to do so frequently or very frequently, according to the poll.
The survey also found that 12% of elderly citizens give up using hot water at least three days a week for financial reasons; 11% do not buy medication or pay for medical care, mostly due to financial constraints; and 13% forgo buying food at times for financial reasons, a figure that has not come down since the previous poll conducted by the Geocartography Institute on this issue in December 2013.
Finally, the survey found that 13% of elderly people report feeling lonely on a daily basis.
According to IFCJ, the results “underscore that this winter’s cold, coupled with rising living costs, put major sections of the country’s population at risk,” and that the “supplemental incomes and pensions” granted to vulnerable citizens and the elderly “do not go far enough” in meeting their basic needs.
“The immense need of the elderly in Israel is a social catastrophe which we must treat like any other emergency situation,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the IFCJ.
“For the elderly, giving up food, medications or heating can sometimes be a death sentence,” he added.
The survey also reveal some more positive results; according to the findings, despite the still large percentage of elderly who cannot afford heating, the figure has been decreasing over the last four years, partly due to significantly reduced electricity costs in the past two years.
Furthermore, the number of elderly people reporting loneliness in their everyday lives is down from 19% in 2013.
Eckstein pointed out that “tens of thousands continue to give up food and medicine because of financial challenges” and said the government had not done enough to deal with the crisis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government “must take immediate action and drastically improve the situation of the elderly and not make due with only cosmetic actions,” he said.
The IFCJ carried out the survey in preparation for its annual “Winter Warmth” campaign, which begins this week. The organization distributes heating grants worth a total of approximately NIS 8.75 million to 25,000 needy and infirm elderly in nearly 100 communities across the country. There are approximately 870,000 elderly citizens over the age of 65.
According to the National Insurance Institute’s 2015 Annual Report on Poverty, poverty among the elderly increased from 22.1% in 2013 to 22.3% in 2014.