A survey by Statistics South Africa revealed that more than three million elderly South Africans relied on old age grants paid out by the government, Statistician General Pali Lehohla revealed on Wednesday.
Lehohla was releasing a report titled: “The social profile of older persons, 2011-2015” which focuses on people aged 60 and older, at a press briefing in Pretoria.
“Regarding poverty and unemployment, this is why there was a serious scare on the grants and pensions. [The fear] was that if these elderly persons do not receive their grants what was going to happen to them. You can see [on the graphs] that more than half of the elderly persons live with unemployed household members,” Lehohla presented results of the survey.
“If that source of income is not available, all these unemployed members would be in serious trouble. The four million elderly people, in whatever number of households they are, live in more than half of households where people are unemployed.”
The report provides statistics on the socio-economic conditions and social profile of older persons across South Africa, including their living conditions, medical aid coverage, access to basic services, old age grant and pension coverage rates, employment, illiteracy rates and education levels. It also delves into the elderly’s immigration patterns, amongst others.
Lehohla said the survey found that the living conditions of the elderly in South Africa are “fairly precarious”.
“Of the 4.5 million elderly people, we had 3.1 million by 2015 on old age grants as recipients. This was 80 percent [of the elderly] in rural areas whereas in urban areas grants were 42 percent, salaries 33 and other sources of income make the remainder of that at 25 percent. The elderly, 70 percent of them receive grants, predominantly in Limpopo and less so in Gauteng and Western Cape, “said Lehohla.
For Limpopo, survival on old age grants in 2015 was at 89 percent, followed by Eastern Cape with 82.3 percent. Western Cape had the least number of old age grants recipients, with a figure of 48.9 percent.
Regarding life expectancy, Lehohla said “the force of mortality has been declining”. Life expectancy among females is at 65 years and above 59 years for men.
The survey also found that the rate of people above 60 years covered by a medical aid or medical benefit scheme or other private health insurance was highest among whites and Indians/Asians.
“Medical aid amongst whites covered 73.5 percent while amongst blacks it only six percent. The elderly amongst blacks are not covered by medical aid. The national average for medical aid is at 17.5 percent. Except for Gauteng and Western Cape, the bulk of the people here use public services. That is in the majority of cases,” said Lehohla.
The top five causes of death among the elderly are – natural causes which claim 97 percent; circulatory systems related ailments at 29.7 percent; diseases of the respiratory system claim 14.9 percent; neoplasms at 12.3 percent; and
Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases killed 11.3 percent.
Regarding victimisation and crime, Lehohla said the elderly feel “less safe at night and much safer during the day”.
“The figures are almost universally similar for all race groups. At night it’s almost a similar percentage [for all age groups] everybody is scared of moving around,” he said.