seniors citizens in mexico Seniors: greater numbers, greater needs. hora cero

An aging population with limited services

The growing demand for specialized services and doctors is outpacing supply

There is something of a slow-motion “Baby Boomers” tsunami taking place in Mexico.

During the decade of the 1990s senior citizens represented just 6.35% of the population but now they are 10%, and according to projections by the National Population Council, Conapo, their numbers will grow by 42.5% in the next 10 years, reaching 15%.

In Mexico the number of inhabitants aged 60 years or more has increased an impressive 118% since 1990, and in some locations in the north of the country, such as Nuevo León, the increase has been even greater at 189%. In contrast, during this same period the country’s total population saw an increase of 39% nationally and 57% in the north.

Twenty-five years ago there were 5,536,866 seniors in Mexico and today it is estimated there are more than 12 million. By 2030 there could be as many as 20 million.

In a recent study by the National Institute of Health and Aging it was revealed that since 1960 life expectancy in Mexico has risen from 57 to 75 years.

But at the same time the needs have multiplied. There is widespread agreement that the government hasn’t done a very good job of seeing to it that seniors are well cared for: public policy hasn’t kept up with the pace of population growth.

Geriatric specialists point out that the difficulties for the growing number of people of the so-called third age — la tercera edad, as they are known in Mexico — are numerous and the demand for specialized services has far outstripped the ability to meet them.

A recent study by the National Institute of Health and Aging in Mexico (Enasen) found that 70% of older adults do not receive the medical services they need in either public or private institutions. Nor do they have much money to pay for them: on average, it was reported, the typical senior in Mexico has a monthly income of around 2,000 pesos, or US $120, and only 25% have a retirement or pension plan.

There is one trained professional specializing in geriatrics for every 22,000 seniors, according to the Monterrey Institute of Technology. But by international standards there should be a specialized doctor available for every 2,000 to 2,500.

In Mexico seniors confront a range of health issues, of which the principal ones are hypertension, cancer, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. Up to 30% could come down with a chronic ailment such as cancer over the next decade.

The institute of Cancer Policy in the United Kingdom has calculated that in 2030 there could be increases of up to 75% of new cancer cases worldwide and the majority will most certainly be patients of an advanced age.

Says a researcher at the National Institute of Geriatrics, “Technology has allowed us to have extended longevity but this has had grave consequences on the quality of life for older adults, which is often deplorable, and the government doesn’t seem interested.” Armando Luna Lopez pointed out that a government incapable of providing employment opportunities for youth is even less likely to invest in the well-being of seniors.

He noted that government efforts to improve the situation for older citizens in many other countries have been excellent, but much more effort and attention is needed in Mexico.

If we take care of our seniors, he observed, our children will do the same for us when it’s our turn.

Mexico News Daily

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