Issue - June 2009

June 2009


Inside this edition: People are considered old when certain changes occur in their activities or social roles. Usually this happens around 60 to 65 years old. In different countries people are considered part of the third age; many people said that to stay in shape and to keep active is the more...

June 2009

What do you think of the Renta Dignidad?

Our primary question was whether the Renta Dignidad was enough, and the almost unanimous response was that it was not

Rebecca Wearmouth
Projects Aborad Volunteer
Stockton - United Kingdom

The situation for many elderly people in Bolivia is extremely difficult. When one is unable to work in order to earn a living, the options in terms of finding alternative support are extremely limited. Many of the elderly rely on their families; whilst others are required to support families themselves. Of course, many elderly people in Bolivia continue working once they reach retirement age, despite frailty, simply because they have no other choice. Support from the government for the elderly does, however, exist in the form of the Renta Dignidad: a non-contributory universal pension of 200Bs a month which is available to all Bolivians over the age of 65. But how helpful is this money? Is it sufficient? If it is sufficient then why are there still countless elderly beggars on the streets of Cochabamba? What further help can be provided to the elderly of Bolivia? These are just some of the questions we posed to a selection of Boliva´s elderly in the process of writing this article.

Our primary question was whether the Renta Dignidad was enough, and the almost unanimous response was that it was not; although there was a widespread agreement that the non-contributory pension was very helpful to many of Bolivia’s elderly. “For what it is its OK. It helps me a lot but if you’re a drunk person than it’s not very good” joked a gentleman working in the market. He continued to explain that with the money he receives through the Renta Dignidad he can buy, “sugar, rice, pasta, oil for almost the whole month, so it’s a big help and my wife collects it as well so together it’s 400Bs for both of us which is certainly enough to eat… People are happy with it. It helps a lot of people…There are people who do not drink and have a good life and it helps them a lot, it’s a big help. ” However, the majority of Bolivians interviewed were slightly less positive, with a lady working in the Market saying that, for her, “it is not enough” but that “maybe for some people it is enough, at least it’s a help.” Similarly, a woman working in an Internet café stated that The Renta Dignidad “is not really sufficient” but that it´s “something, it more or less covers my needs. It is helpful, at least for medicine and food.” The sense that the Renta Dignidad, despite not being sufficient to live off, is at least a sizable help for most people was unanimous with a lady working in the market agreeing that, “it always lifts us up a bit”.

So if the Renta Dignidad is one source of support for the elderly, although by no means enough to live by, what are the additional sources of support available? Most of the elderly we interviewed received little support beyond the Renta Dignidad, often citing moral support from friends or family as the only other kind of support available to them. One of them explained “it isn’t easy to find out about support available and the situation is bad at the moment, but I do not personally know any elderly people who are struggling and not receiving enough support.” Both that work in the market confirmed that they were receiving moral support from their family, as Internet employee said, “I do not receive any support, other than moral support from my friends”.

Another potential problem for the elderly could be obtaining the Renta Dignidad in the first place, “we have all our documents so it’s easy”, one of them explains “if you don’t have the right paperwork then you are in trouble.” The majority of the elderly people we dialogued agreed that obtaining the Renta Diginidad is a fairly simple process, so long as your documents are in order. The collection of the Renta Dignidad clearly does prove a challenge if you do not have the correct information. As Sister Cecilia from Buen Pastor (a charity which cares for the elderly) explained many of the elderly living in the home do not have the correct documents, such as a birth certificate or a national identification card and are thus not able to collect their Renta Dignidad, though Buen Pastor does try to help them receive it. An additional problem with collecting the Renta Dignidad, mentioned by our interviewees, was the actual collection process itself: “you have to wait in a long line, and sometimes you have to wait in the sun and that’s uncomfortable,” explained the woman working in the market.

When asked how support for the elderly could be improved, the majority of those interviewed were at a loss. There was widespread agreement that increasing the Renta Dignidad to 250Bs per month would be a positive move towards providing more support for the elderly, however, there was some doubt as to whether this change would ever take place. With the woman at the market stating that, “they said they might increase it to 250Bs [per month] but they won’t do anything.”

Overall, those interviewed about the Renta Dignidad were positive about the initiative and found it was beneficial to them, although there was almost widespread agreement that the amount available is not sufficient. The Renta Dignidad is thus viewed as a supplement to an income, it is not enough to retire on but “it is something”. What is abundantly clear is that there is little alternative support available for elderly people, homes such as Buen Pastor do exist but they are often over-crowded and under-staffed. The Tercera Edad are clearly a sector of society which often receive less attention then they deserve and require, something that is surely due to change.

The Opinions of the Young

The lives of the elderly in Bolivia vary greatly. In
order to gauge perceptions of old age among Cochabambinos that are not yet old, I spoke with: a University student living with her elderly parents; a young man also living with his elderly mother and
working in the Tourism Department of the Municipal Building; a lady working at a clothes stall in La Cancha market who has a five year old son; a wood craftsman
who has four adult children; a 51 year old woman who works as a piano teacher and also runs a fixed, enclosed
stall at La Cancha market. Who lives with her husband and two of her adult daughters.

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