Help the agedCrimes by senior citizens have more than doubled in the past decade. According to the Korean national research center for criminal policy, between 1996 and 2006, while the number of criminals as a whole has stayed more or less the same, the number of aged criminals has increased significantly from 34,492 to 82,323. As our society is aging, this phenomenon can be regarded as inevitable to some extent. But a bigger reason is that perhaps elderly citizens are feeling alienated from their families and society.
Last year, the number of elderly people aged 65 years and above exceeded 5 million for the first time, taking up more than 10 percent of the entire population. The quality of living for elderly citizens is extremely poor. Most senior citizens face health and financial problems, too. Nearly 1 million senior citizens live alone. As they don’t have family members to take care of them, these elderly people are more exposed to accidents and illness. Their average monthly income is 266,000 won ($198), just half the average income earned by elderly citizens who live with their families.
Closing our eyes to these senior citizens’ hardship is the same as encouraging them to commit crimes. Our social system must be restructured to respond to a rapid increase in the population of elderly citizens in order to prevent the surge in crimes committed by this section of society.
The most urgent need is to create jobs for elderly citizens. Workers in Korea retire when they reach 53 years on average while life expectancy for men is 79. That means on average, retirees have to make a living for more than 25 years after retirement.
As family values rapidly change, parents no longer expect their children to support them. Since there aren’t even enough jobs for young people, jobs for senior citizens might be viewed as a luxury. However, at least to reduce a snowballing budget for senior citizens, including a health insurance program, we should help elderly citizens enjoy happy, healthy lives physically and mentally.
Employment will make elderly citizens feel like part of society and give them more satisfaction than simply earning money. Appropriate social services must be enhanced. There are currently around 8,000 caretakers for elderly citizens across the country, and only 130,000 elderly citizens who live alone receive their services. These figures must be increased considerably.
Our society will only be truly safe once we put in place a minimum social security net for alienated aged citizens.
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