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close this bookLiving Conditions of Low-income Older Persons in Human Settlements UNCHS (Habitat) (HABITAT, 1999, 38 p.)
close this folderPART 3
close this folderIV. COUNTRY CASE STUDIES
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Kingston, Jamaica

Dr. Denise Eldemire, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Ageing and Health in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry of the University of the West Indies supervised the survey, which was conducted in the Mona section of Kingston. This area consists largely of small 1 and 2 room wooden houses with gardens. The 23 older persons interviewed were mainly women in their 60s who lived with their small families of 2 to 3 persons. Only 4 were in their 70s and one was in her 80s. Of the 4 men interviewed, 2 lived alone. All those interviewed were tenants. Most people have lived in their homes at least 30 years. Living conditions are primitive with only 11 homes having electricity, and most having to use outdoor group toilets and showers.

There are severe social problems in the poor sections of Kingston due in part to high unemployment on the island and the cultural mix of the population which includes blacks, Indians, Lebanese and Portuguese. Youth gangs cause serious crime problems and there is apparently little police protection to provide security for older persons. Half those surveyed said they receive home health services, and most said their health was good or fair except for difficulties in walking, sight and hearing in some cases. Travel to the hospital is available by public bus. Although there are reduced fares for the elderly, the drivers often will not take them unless they pay full fare. The Sanitary Facilities in these houses were very deficient, consisting largely of outdoor toilets and showers used by groups of families even though most houses have indoor piped water. Most respondents said that the cost of water was excessive, but in fact they were tapping it illegally and not paying.

Community services: Half of the older people said they received home visits from social workers. None reported the existence of a community centre. Three-fourths said they went to church regularly. Public Services: Although most people found public waste disposal and street lighting satisfactory; they all reported that there was no police or fire protection. Also, only 3 reported that streets were cleaned, and 6 said night soil removal was public. Communications: None had telephones. Only half had TVs or Radios. Postal services were available.

Utilities/Fuels: Although only 4 said they had Electricity, 10 had televisions, which indicates they have electricity. 19 used Gas or Oil, and 12 used Charcoal for cooking.

Sources of Funds: Only three reported having full or part-time jobs as housekeeper or janitors. Several said they sold cigarettes, peanuts or ice. Only 4 had pensions. Otherwise, their source of funds was their family. Daily Activities and Bus Services:

Most spent their time on household tasks and visiting family and friends. Eight reported Community activities. Bus services were used to Shops, Church and Hospitals/Clinics. 5 reported reduced fares for seniors, but 11 said there were not.

Living Problems: Almost all reported that their living space was inadequate, the health services were deficient, and that security and safety was a serious problem. Others complained about poor access to their dwellings and the inadequacy of the public transport services.

Most Important Needs of those interviewed:

Housing improvements




Adequate food supply


Financial support


Work opportunities


Better sanitary facilities


The data gathered from the Survey indicates that the cost of water and fuel is too high. It also appears that a majority of older persons have neither pensions nor social security. 61% are dependent on their families for financial support, or have resorted to selling peanuts, ice or cigarettes to make ends meet.