Although the quality of care and assistance received by elderly Israelis has improved, there are still hundreds of old men and women who will spend the coming winter shivering and alone in their meagre homes, with no heat, no nutritional food and nothing to ease the harshness of the cold season.
The number of impoverished senior citizens in the country has been dropping every year. But, still the risk of living below the poverty line for Israelis over the age of 65 is higher than the average for most OECD countries.
In addition, at least 23% of Israel’s elderly appear to live completely alone.
According to the Israeli Center for Legal Guardianship (ICLG) – a public trust that helps the impoverished elderly in all walks of life based on their needs and financial situation – there are thousands of Israelis for whom the winter is nothing but a reoccurring nightmare.
The 65-year-old M., resides in a small apartment in Jerusalem. He has a mental disability and after the death of his parents and siblings he was appointed a guardian from the ICLG.
He lives in constant fear of winter. Last year, he says, was particularly difficult and he fears he would not be able to survive another cold season.
His windows and shutters are broken and fail to keep the freezing Jerusalem wind at bay while the damp and mold on the walls endanger his health further.
“I am cold to my bones,” he says despite the blankets he piles on to cover himself at night. “I’m afraid of going to sleep because I’m not sure I will wake up in the morning.”
M., says he finds it hard to think of anything else when he is cold. “My teeth chatter and my fingers and toes freeze.”
Shmuel, 70, also lives in Jerusalem. He immigrated from Iraq in the 1990s and is estranged from his family.
Shmuel lives on a modest pension provided by the state.
“When I look at my home, I wonder why I have to live like this, it is torture,” Shmuel says.
“Last winter the apartment would flood every time it rained, and I would wake up wet in my bed.” I am ashamed of how I live,” he adds.
Shmuel explains that feeling cold is worse than being hungry. “It is humiliating, and I am feeling hopeless, and you cannot live without hope,” he says.
R., 68, is also finding winters too hard to handle. The resident of the central city of Bat-Yam is divorced and estranged from her only son, making winters an emotional challenge as well from many emotional challenges.
Her walls and windows are exposed to the elements and she cannot heat her home. She says that despite the hardships she tries to stay optimistic.
“Elderly live in fear that any kind of rain could flood their homes,” says Uriel Lederberg who heads the ICLG. “And, any wind gust could lower the already low temperatures they are living in.”
The center started a crowdfunding effort to finance urgent home renovations for 25 of the direst cases at an estimated cost of NIS 500,000.
The initiative will include bringing the apartments up to a livable standard and providing other assistance according to the physical and emotional needs of the resident.
To donate to ICLG call +972 2-649-0000 (from inside Israel only) or go to Jgive.com