Haifa U. prof: Pensioners Party restores human capital

The spectacular showing made by the Gil Pensioners Party in the recent election was a victory for all senior citizens - or at least for those in Israel, according to one expert on aging. Prof. Ariela Lowenstein, head of the University of Haifa's Center for the Study and Research of Aging, said the newly elected retirees represented "human capital that society had lost. This was an opportunity to correct the situation," she said. The Pensioners Party won an astounding seven seats in the new Knesset. "Their election," the Haifa gerontologist said, "was one of the good things that has happened to the mature population in Israel. This can bring about a [positive] change in the societal image of this population as it is held today," she said. Pointing to the past achievements of the new MKs, Lowenstein said, "Whoever doubts their ability because of their age should remember this: These are people who are used to a long day, full of work and with little sleep." A large proportion of seniors who were accustomed to being busy would continue to be active as long as their health permitted and they had sufficient economic resources, she said. This was true for the seniors in general, she said, adding that not all old people were as sick as younger people customarily thought. She also said the senior population had been in need of adequate representation. Lowenstein, an expert on intergenerational relations and grandparenthood, said the average life expectancy in Israel, which at 77 for men and over 82 was among the highest in the world, had resulted in an increase in the number of multigenerational families. More than 900 Israelis have celebrated their 100th birthday and there were between 22,000 and 23,000 in their 90's, she said. She was quick to point out, however, that the composition of Israel's population was not aging, especially when compared to Europe. Only 10 percent of Israelis were 65 or older, she said, while between 15% and 16% of Europe's population fell in this category. Many young voters gave the Pensioners Party their support, she said, because they were disgusted with the machinations of the large parties and saw how their parents and grandparents had to cope with daily life. These youngsters voted for the Pensioners Party to try to help them their older relatives, Lowenstein said.