Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 3 » Latin America - Demographic Background, Literacy, Living Arrangements, Economic Activity And Retirement, Pension Policy

Latin America - Living Arrangements

age aging unmarried elders people percent

Since most elders in Latin America do not participate in an official pension program, old age does not have a clearly defined onset, as it does for many people in developed countries, where retirement age is often used to delineate age groups. But living arrangements, and changes in those arrangements, can be used to observe patterns in the lives of elders in Latin America. For instance, one's marital status (single Table 2 Percent of Population 65 and Over that Was Literate Circa 1990 SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base married, widowed, etc.) may be a critical determinant of both family status and household arrangements in Latin America. Whereas married elders may live in an extended household, in a nuclear household with unmarried children (if there are unmarried children), or in an "empty nest," unmarried elders typically live with extended kin, with unmarried children (if there are unmarried children), or alone. The older a person becomes, the less likely it is that there is still an unmarried child at home.

Many elders in Latin America do in fact reside with extended kin, and such residence can be viewed as just one way the family cares for its elders. For instance, in 1994 an estimated 53 percent of people age sixty and older in Mexico resided with extended family members. Such coresidence may benefit younger people as well older ones, since the arrangement is often part of an exchange of both monetary and nonmonetary resources. Elders who do not themselves work outside the house for pay may relieve younger people of many of the household chores, such as child care, that would prevent them from working for pay. Aging parents are often part of a family whose members care for each other no matter what.

Many elders do not reside with extended kin, however, but with their nuclear family. In Latin America most elderly men are still married but many elderly women are not, mainly due to widowhood. In Chile in 1992, for example, 24 percent of married people sixty years and older lived only with their spouse, and 15 percent of unmarried people in the same age group lived alone. Thus, although unmarried elderly men were more likely to live alone than unmarried elderly women (21 percent vs. 13 percent), a lower proportion of elderly men overall lived alone because most were still married. The proportion of all elders living alone, 7 percent, is relatively low in international perspective. Most people in Latin America cannot rely on pensions. Living alone in Latin America may mean being totally destitute (although living with extended family as a last resort may have its costs as well).

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