'My husband can't even afford an asthma inhaler'

Dina Babalavi, 76, and her husband, Avi, 83, who live in Ramot, say they can barely survive on their NIS 2,500 monthly National Insurance allowance. They both suffer from various ailments, including severe asthma and broken limbs, but simply lack the necessary funds to pay for the right treatment. "In the last five years our situation has steadily gotten worse. I'm always falling over because of my leg, but cannot afford to pay the NIS 410 orthopedic costs," sighed Dina. "My husband can't even afford an asthma inhaler." Their story is far from unique. A 2003 report entitled "The Consequences of Financial Difficulties for the Lives of the Elderly," compiled by the JDC Brookdale Institute of Gerontology and Human Development, showed that due to a serious lack of funds, 26 percent of people are forced to choose between vital expenditures such as heating, electric bills and medication. As a consequence, the majority (64%) forgo the purchase of food. National Insurance Institute figures in 2004 also show that further budget cuts led to an increase in the number of elderly who fell below the poverty line. Babalavi told The Jerusalem Post that she and her husband, like many others, had to seek help from private organizations. She said they had been helped considerably by Ezrat Avot, a privately-funded senior citizen center based in the Sha'arei Pina neighborhood of Jerusalem that provides a free food and social service for the aged. "Many of the elderly people we cater for are home-bound and completely isolated, which makes them totally reliant on us for care and support," said managing director Sraya Sharabi. "The money they receive from the government is simply not enough to cover all costs." In response to this ever-increasing need, Ezrat Avot has introduced its own special initiative called "Senior to Senior," which recruits mobile elderly volunteers to take hot meals to people all over the city who can't reach the center due to infirmity. "The elderly deserve to be treated with dignity and respect but this requires a major change in attitude from the government," Sharabi added.