Around the world 1 October is marked as the International Day of Older Persons. On that occasion, let us take a look at the situation of older persons in Croatia. Currently, one in three members of this age group lives at risk of poverty and this number rises to one in two for those living in single households. Not only do these figures paint a picture of the financial situation our elderly citizens live in, they also speak volumes about the state of their human rights, taking into account the fact that discrimination and rights violations often go hand in hand with poverty.

The elderly in Croatia face numerous problems: difficulties in accessing health care, social welfare and other public services, especially in the rural areas; various forms of violence – including economic, abuses of the support-until-death contracts; ageism – i.e. age-based prejudice: as well as intersectional discrimination – i.e. discrimination based on the combination of several grounds, such as age, lower financial status, poor health, etc.

The current pandemic has additionally exacerbated their position – not only are they at a greater risk of developing more serious forms of the illness but have also been lacking sufficient support in achieving the minimal preconditions necessary for living in dignity.

Thus, the government decision to introduce a one-off payment for the elderly citizens receiving the lowest pensions, the so called “COVID supplement”, with the aim of relieving the consequences for this group caused by the pandemic represents a welcome move, as well as the subsequent decision to extend the application deadline to accommodate those who missed it in the first round. The latter followed after public appeals by the Croatian Pensioners’ Union and the National Pensioners’ Convention of Croatia and the Ombudswoman’s recommendation issued after having received a significant number of complaints by the elderly citizens unable to obtain the supplement despite meeting the financial and other conditions.

Apart from the pandemic affecting older persons around the globe, elderly citizens in Croatia have had to face another major challenge: the consequences of the earthquakes hitting parts of the country in 2020 and still felt today by the populations of the affected areas. The majority of the citizens of the Sisak-Moslavina County currently living in temporary accommodation are older persons, mostly on low incomes, whose prospects of returning to their homes are uncertain.

The position of older people in a society is a good indicator of the prevalent attitudes towards them. Thus, we must insist on public policies resulting in stronger protection of their rights and equality and, therefore, enabling them to live in dignity.

More information on the position of and problems faced by the elderly persons in Croatia is available here.