What happens to the elderly in developing countries

In poor countries, or rich countries 100+ years ago, what happens with the elderly?

They have no pensions, public or private. No savings. No health care. All jobs require heavy manual labor. So what do they do? Live with kids and help around the house?

What if they have no kids?

I have read that a lot of elderly people in China are struggling terribly these days because the country doesn’t have adequate social safety nets, and the effects of all the social upheaval they’ve experienced over the last couple of generations plus the “One Child Policy” means that there are fewer young people around who are willing and able to help their elderly relatives:

I think this is a big factor in why poor/developing countries often have higher birth rates - in a place that doesn’t have social security benefits or government funded nursing homes, having children who will help you as you get older is essential for survival. In poor countries, sometimes you ARE fucked if you don’t have any family who can help you - life can be cruel that way, even though it’s not fair.

Even here in the developed world, though, we can’t be sure of what the future will hold - especially since in some western countries the aging population is much higher than the number of young workers able to pump tax money into the economy to help support the old folks. I think this is one reason why some European countries have been so eager to welcome immigrants - because we need young workers to help support the aging natives.

I still think that people who don’t have children they expect will help them when they’re old should put serious effort into planning for their old age.
Do your best to save up some money when you can, but also try to cultivate some relationships with some younger/healthier folks so that maybe they will be willing to help you when your mind and body start to fail you. When elderly people who ended up alone and with nothing, even here in America it can become a sad situation though we have more money and resources than somewhere like China does.
Getting old is not something most of us like to think about, but it is really important to come up with a plan for your old age. Unfortunately a lot of times society doesn’t care much about what happens to old people, and tends not to be as sympathetic to their problems as we should be. :frowning:

I know amongst tribal societies, there’s enormous variation. Some cultures practically worship elders whereas others treat them as nothing but a burden, even ‘encouraging’ them to wander off and die when they can no longer do useful work. Not exactly what you where asking I guess, but I would have thought there was a wide range of attitudes in larger societies as well.

In my experience, it is more common for extended families to look out for the elderly in the developing world. It’s one of the reasons that family is often so important.


Here in Mexico the family is paramount. My abuelita will be 100 years old on November 1st. She lives with her daughter’s family, in what was her house.

If you don’t have children, there are siblings, aunts and uncles.

There are some without family. You can see them shaking a can in the street.

Depends on the developing country. Panama has Social Security and medical care for the elderly. Anyone over 55 (women) to 60 (men) years old gets heavy discounts on restaurant meals, transportation, entertainment, and other items.

Of course, Social Security doesn’t provide that much. The elderly depend on their extended families to take care of them beyond that. And those who don’t have family may end up begging.

My question was wondering about what happens to people who don’t have wealth or health care. That could include people 100+ years ago where there was no health care, and not enough wealth to support the elderly.

That would include modern poor countries, but Panama is arguably too wealthy for that, they are an upper-middle income nation.

In the late 1800s, the US had the county poor house (or poor farm), where the elderly destitute went to live. It was a very basic form of welfare, run on the county level. They typically got low-quality food, and a place to sleep, and that was about it.

Looking back to when the US was developing, my great grandparents (and earlier generations) died in the homes of their children. My grandparents stayed in their own home but had children next door. My parents have/will die as my great grandparents did, while living with their children.

I only have step kids, so I am hoping the ice floes last.