[전주대 신문 제905호 14면, 발행일 : 2020년 12월 2일(수)]
The Korean society is aging fast. Though no one can escape aging, such a rapid increase in the elderly population will have an unexpected effect on the whole society, let alone the cost of social welfare services.
As the proportion of senior citizens is getting larger, the number of elderly people living alone also increases every year. Unfortunately, the number of solitary deaths among senior citizens aged 65 or older has rapidly increased for the past years. Most of the elderly living alone experience financial hardship. They make a living from a small sum of money they earn every day, and some of them have been unable to make ends meet after the COVID-19 breakout. It is hard to carry out welfare programs for senior citizens because the government does not know what exactly the status of senior citizens is. Current programs do not actually help them much.
According to the data submitted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of elderly people living alone stood at 1,589,371 as of August 2020, up about 25 percent from 1,275,316 in 2016. The figure accounts for 15.7 percent of the total population, which means one in five senior citizens live alone. The number of people has been increasing by 5 to 6 percent every year: 1,275,316 in 2016, 1,346,677 in 2017, 1,430,748 in 2018, 1,50,413 in 2019, and 1,589,371 as of August 2020. At this rate, the elderly living alone will account for 28.7% of the population in 2035. A realistic solution is urgently needed to help the elderly keep dignity as a human being.
Older people are weak, so they could be seriously injured even when they fall from a height of 20 to 30 feet. In severe cases, they may die. Therefore, it is necessary to provide medical welfare services for the elderly who are sick, and practical jobs for the elderly who make a living day by day, and open programs for the elderly so that those living alone do not feel lonely.
Korea achieved a high economic growth rate, but we believe that it has not been called an advanced country because of its lack of social welfare services. Not only the government but also all the citizens and companies should work hard to solve the problem of elderly people living alone. Only then will Korea become an advanced country.
It is necessary to realize the actual state of senior citizens living alone and to establish a framework of their rights and obligations. Practical measures to cope with the elderly people living alone should be established to ease socio-economic burdens. Based on this, the government should promote balanced development and quality improvement of various systems related to the elderly. The issue of solitary death among the elderly living alone is a social responsibility that we must bear together.
By Yu Seong Hun & Kim Jieun, Reporters
* 인용가능 (단, 인용시 출처 표기 바람) *