Cape Town – Statistician General Pali Lehohla says data shows that elderly persons are better off in terms of socio-economic conditions, as their life expectancy improves.
Releasing the Social Profile of Older Persons report during a media briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday, Lehohla said despite challenges like exposure to crime, the living conditions of elderly people improved over a five-year period between 2011 and 2015.
“The statistics show that … life expectancy is [increasing], so we have more years to live… There is an improvement there.
“We see elderly people living in conditions slightly better in terms of housing, water and electricity.
“We see elderly people accessing social grants. If you look at 2002 and now, [the number of elderly people receiving grants] jumped to 3.5 million,” he said.
Presenting the report to journalists, Lehohla said the percentage of persons aged 60 years and older who lived below the upper-bound of poverty line decreased from 84.8% in 2009 to 80.9% in 2011.
He said the elderly who lived below the lower-bound of poverty line decreased by 7.2% – from 83.4% to 76.2% between 2009 and 2011.
Between 2011 and 2015, grants and salaries or wages or commission were the main sources of income for households headed by older persons, accounting for over half of the distribution share.
Over 3.1 million of persons aged 60 years and older were recipients of an old-age grant in 2015 compared to 2.7 million in 2011.
The population of elderly people stood at 4.5 million in 2016.
“We see elderly people living in conditions that are slightly better compared to 2011,” Lehohla said.
Life expectancy improves amongst elderly persons
According to the report, the life expectancy of males increased from 53.6 to 59.7 years, while for females, it went up from 56.6 to 65.1 years.
The elderly population accounts for 8.1% of South Africa’s population – which is a proportional increase of 0.1 of a percentage point, compared to elderly people accounting for 8% of the overall population in 2011.
The three health conditions that are most common amongst the elderly persons were high blood pressure (45.3%), diabetes (15.8%) and arthritis (13.8%).
In terms of health benefits, only 22.9% of the elderly in South Africa were members of medical aid schemes in 2015.
The percentage of persons aged 60 years and older, who were covered by a medical aid or medical benefit scheme or other private health insurance, was highest amongst elderly white (73.5%) and Indian/Asian persons (33.9%).
Only 6% of black African elderly persons and 16.6% of coloured elderly persons were members of a medical aid scheme.
He said, meanwhile, that there has been a reduction in illiteracy across all provinces.
“In relation to functional literacy, the elderly are much more functionally literate.”