If we’re lucky, someday we’ll all get old. If we’re even luckier, we’ll do it well and in good health until the end.
Unfortunately, many of us aren’t so lucky and either die off too soon or our lives stretch for decades with all sorts of ailments and debilities that leave us virtually helpless.
The care of an aging population is a worldwide concern, and one examined in a recent global study released by the United Nations that showed the world is aging so rapidly that most countries are unprepared. The report should spur world leaders to devise systems to protect a vulnerable and growing population.
By the year 2050, for the first time in history, people over the age of 60 will outnumber children under the age of 15. The Global AgeWatch Index was created by the elder advocacy group HelpAge International and the U.N. Population Fund in part to address a lack of international data on the extent and impact of global aging.
The index compiles data from the U.N., World Health Organization, World Bank and other global agencies and analyzes income, health, education, employment and age-friendly environment in each country. The report ranks the social and economic well-being of elders in 91 countries. No surprise that Sweden ranks at the top and Afghanistan at the bottom. The United States comes in eighth.
The recent extension by the Obama administration of minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home care workers is a start to improving that ranking.
Anyone affected by the work of home health aides, those people who bathe, clothe and help elderly or disabled loved ones with daily living, understands that paying them subpar wages is criminal. Most of these aides are women, who perform backbreaking chores, usually earning $8.50 to $12 an hour.
Who would want to be in the position of needing such care, knowing that it is administered by someone who is so underpaid that she may qualify for food stamps and Medicaid?
The new regulation will be slow in coming, not taking effect until Jan. 1, 2015. That is designed to give families that use the services and state Medicaid programs time to prepare.
People are living longer and if they have any hope of living better in old age it will take initiatives like guaranteeing their caretakers at least a minimum wage and overtime to make it happen.