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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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Santiago, Chile

The Survey was performed under the direction of Sra. Sonia Zapata Donoso, Master of Social Science at Santo Tomas University and consultant to the Inter American Institute of Agricultural Cooperation. Her specialization is in social studies of poor older people in rural areas. A total of 60 interviews were conducted, 20 in each of three poor communities within the Santiago metropolitan area. Of these, 20 cases were in La Pintana Municipality in the City; and 40 cases in very poor outlying settlements, including 20 in “El Pincoy” in the Recoleta municipality, and 20 in Mun. de Penalolen.

The ageing process in Chile is not uniform throughout the country; the Santiago metropolitan area has the highest concentration in the country: 39% over 60 years old. Practically all lived in houses which, they owned. Two thirds of the houses were built of brick and the remaining third of wood. The majority of houses have four small rooms and a garden. Most of the houses are old and have structural deficiencies needing repair. The people interviewed have been living in their homes for 30 or 40 years.

Practically all households were multi-generational with about half-composed of from 1 to 3 persons and over half of 5 or more persons. 90% of those interviewed were women, although this may have been due to the time of the interviews. Almost half of those interviewed were in their 60’s; about the same percentage were in their 70s, and ten percent were above 80. Almost 40% of the women over 60 were widowed, and this condition is three times that for men.

Sanitary conditions are satisfactory. All have potable water supply. An indoor toilet and shower. All have electricity and use liquid gas as fuel.

However, two-thirds consider the cost of these services as excessive even though some ageing receive a State subsidy for these costs. Trash is publicly removed and the areas have streetlights. Over half reported having telephones and three fourths have colour TVs.

Only half reported that there was a police command post in their neighbourhood, and a third said there was a fire station nearby. All reported that there were schools and churches in the neighbourhood, including access to an adult learning centre. Half reported that a medical clinic providing emergency services was available. Three fourths said shops were nearby and half-reported parks in the vicinity. Bus service is available, but not at reduced fare for the elderly.

Many of the ageing suffer sight and hearing disabilities, and a few complained about walking difficulties. 40% said they wanted to work although only 3% had jobs. About 60% receive government pensions which, they say were insufficient to cover their living expenses. Almost two thirds live with relatives and depend on their families’ assistance to meet housing costs.

Only 12% of their income is received from the State, and 17% consist of savings.

The most common living problems expressed were:

Inadequate living space


Lack of health services


Lack of transportation


Lack of safety and security


Sra. Zapata described a number of government programmes providing services and subsidies to older citizens, but indicated that actual delivery of benefits and services is below expectations:

· Pensions for the poor elderly include the right of free medical attention in clinics and hospitals for those with identity cards.

· Housing Programme for the Elderly. However, very few have actually been built: only 1200 units in 6 years for the entire country

· Education Improvement Programme for the Elderly. Literacy classes at adult education centres for those over 55

· Medical Programme for the Elderly includes provision of eye glasses, hearing aids, prosthetics, etc., and the option of medical loans to cover expensive treatments such as chemotherapy

· Pilot Programme for Improving the Quality of Life addressed to ten poor communities.

· Recreation and Tourism, offering 40% discounts at hotels during low seasons

· Physical activity and recreation to develop self-value, capability and greater autonomy

· Houses for Everyone: for persons over 60 in certain poor settlements.

There are also a number of government and NGO programmes for the handicapped, which serve elderly citizens with incapacities.