September 27, 2011

KOREA: Quality of life among senior citizens is deteriorating

SEOUL / The ChosunIbo / National / September 27, 2011

Living Conditions Get Worse for Older People

The quality of life among senior citizens is deteriorating as they are increasingly exposed to loneliness, abuse and traffic accidents.

Today there are 5.54 million senior citizens in Korea aged 65 or more, more than 11 percent of the total population. According to data Democratic Party lawmaker Jeon Hyun-heui obtained from the Ministry of Health and Welfare as part of the National Assembly's annual audit, reported incidents of abuse of the elderly surged from 2,312 cases in 2007 to 3,068 in 2010.

Among the reported cases of abuse, 86 percent occurred at home and 73 percent were committed by family members, such as children or sons- or daughter-in-laws.

Physical abuse was also on the rise. In 2005, there were 665 reported cases, including murder, assault and battery, but in 2010 there were 1,300, an almost two-fold increase.

Elder abuse 

The streets are getting increasingly dangerous for them as well. According to data obtained from the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs by Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Kwon Sun-taik, 34.6 out of every 100,000 people over 65 are killed in traffic accidents, four times more than the OECD average. According to data from the National Police Agency, 2,100 to 2,300 senior citizens are killed each year while crossing streets or driving.

The number of old people either living alone or only with their spouses increased to two out of every three. According to the Health Ministry, 1.02 million senior citizens live alone, accounting for 18 percent of people over 65.

The trend is particularly noticeable in Seoul. According to the latest statistics, the number of older couples living by themselves increased from 113,826 in 2000 to 261,399 last year, while the number of elderly people living alone increased from 65,082 to 138,825.

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