Old world portraits: Problems facing the elderly

Associated Press | AP Photos
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Old world portrait mosaic

As the world ages faster than ever before, governments and families are both struggling to answer the question: Who will care for the old? See gallery

Across the globe, people were asked two key questions by the Associated Press: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of? And what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Their views are expressed through this slideshow.

This combination of photos from 2013 shows, top row from left, Pedro Vega Yucra, 80, in Ayacucho, Peru; Padma Sagaram, 63, in Singapore; Hamid Mohammed, 65, in New Delhi and Ingrid Foerster, 82, in Frankfurt. In middle row from left are Sandra S. Harris, 67, in Decatur, Ga.; Nissim Pinto, 79, in Tel Aviv; Amadou Mbaye, 74, in Dakar, Senegal and Mahmoud Hussein, 75, in North Cairo, Egypt. In bottom row from left are Richard Hardick, 74, in San Diego; Paul Gresham, 75, in Decatur, Ga.; Juma Abdalla Athanas, 65, in Nairobi, Kenya and Claudio Rodriguez Contreras, 71, in Havana.

Related: In aging China, old woman sues children for care

AP Photo: Rodrigo Abd
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Pedro Vega Yucra, 80

Pedro Vega Yucra, 80, stands for a photo in Chacas, a small village in Ayacucho, Peru, on Saturday, June 15. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Yucra said "I only have a small house. I have no land to work so I have no money. I live alone because my three children live far away, and my wife died years ago. So my biggest fear is that one day I will not have anything to eat or even the energy to work on my own. In the rural areas of my country, we, the elderly, die and nobody notices. We eat alone, we sleep alone, the government should take care of us, but as you become old, no one cares."

AP Photo: Wong Maye-E
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Padma Sagaram, 63

Retiree Padma Sagaram, 63, poses for a photo in Singapore on Monday, June 17. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Sagaram said, "I am afraid of illnesses and being financially dependent on others. Growing older, there is a great sense of fear of being alone. I have children, but they have lives too. What about other elderly who have no children? What happens to them? I think the main problem here is that we do not have a retirement village. Growing old has become a stigma in this country. We have nursing homes but it's not the same because to me, it is like a place for abandoned and ailing old people. If we have retirement villages, we can grow old with others gracefully and emotional support is available."
 

AP Photo: Saurabh Das
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Hamid Mohammed, 65

Hamid Mohammed, 65, stands for a photograph in New Delhi on Friday, June 28. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Mohammed, who is the father of six daughters, three of whom are married, said he is terribly afraid of the absolute misery that may descend on his family if he, the only earning member, loses his job as a rickshaw puller. According to him, the biggest problem for the majority of elderly living in India is the absence of proper shelter as many of them depend on the mercy of their children to look after them.

AP Photo: Michael Probst
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Ingrid Foerster, 82

Ingrid Foerster, 82, poses for a photo in Frankfurt on Wednesday, June 26. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Foerster said "I am most afraid of losing my mental and physical independence and becoming a nursing case. The biggest problem for the elderly is living a solitary life."

AP Photo: David Goldman
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Sandra S. Harris, 67

Sandra S. Harris, 67, poses for a photo in Decatur, Ga. on Wednesday, Aug. 21. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Harris said "I'm most afraid of losing my memory. With so many cases of Alzheimer's, it frightens me. I worry about remembering the past, people and friends and the things I have done and can't recall. I'm having a difficult time realizing that I'm getting older and I have a fear of people taking advantage of me. I think a big problem facing the elderly in this country is identity theft. I didn't know anything like this existed until it hit me and it hurt. I have a very outgoing personality and I have to be careful. When people are too nice to me in the beginning, I pull back now."

AP Photo: Oded Balilty
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Nissim Pinto, 79

Nissim Pinto, 79, poses for a photo in Tel Aviv, Israel on Thursday, July 4. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Pinto said, "I'm afraid of nothing. I just don't really know how to continue my life as I get older like I used to live for almost the last 80 years. I don't like when young people treat me as an old man when I wait in line at the supermarket or in the pharmacy, they asking me why I'm standing. I really appreciate the way they want to help an old man but I don't like to feel old. Times have changed, and life is much more expensive than it used to be 20 years ago. Today it's not easy to live from the pension we have - we can pay for less than the basics, and we can not work anymore."

AP Photo: Rebecca Blackwell
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Amadou Mbaye, 74

Amadou Mbaye, 74, poses for a portrait in Dakar, Senegal on Sunday, Sept. 1. When asked what his greatest fear was as he grew older, Mbaye replied that his only concern was for the future of the younger generation. "Since God allowed me to live to 74, I can only thank him. I am really satisfied. I am concerned for the young children, and I am really worried for their future. Life is too expensive, there is too much unemployment, their health is precarious." In response to the question of what is the greatest problem facing the elderly in Senegal, Mbaye responded that poor economic conditions make the financial situation of the elderly more unpredictable than in the past, when they could count on their children to support them. "Senegal is a poor country. There is no employment for the young to allow them to care for the elderly, and we no longer have the strength to work to support the household."

AP Photo: Hassan Ammar
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Mahmoud Hussein, 75

Egyptian farmer Mahmoud Hussein, 75, stands in his house in Qalubiyah, North Cairo, Egypt on Saturday, July 13. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Hussein said, "I'm afraid that my children will hurt me, kick me out of my house and I will die alone. The biggest problem facing elderly Egyptians is the lack of health insurance and retirement pay like in civilized countries."

AP Photo: Gregory Bull
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Richard Hardick, 74

Richard Hardick, 74, stands in his wetsuit after surfing in San Diego on Tuesday, Sept. 17. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Hardick said, "I'm not afraid of getting older. I surf, I fly fish in Alaska, I teach at a high school. I happen to be a little different than most: I'm religious. I'm an Augustinian. I've taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I don't have any particular fears. I'm having a great time." "I think it's very likely people getting old and having health issues. Diabetes and Alzheimer's. Those I think are the real challenges."

AP Photo: David Goldman
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Paul Gresham, 75

Paul Gresham, 75, poses for a photo in Decatur, Ga. on Wednesday, Aug. 21. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Gresham said, "I'm not afraid of much but the thing that would upset me the most is if someone took away my car. I realize the day is coming as I continue to have birthdays that I won't be able to drive but that's my freedom. Losing that depresses more than anything else I can think of. I wouldn't even be able to take care of my dog. I think one of the most overlooked problems facing the elderly in this country is abuse from the family. I see it in my neighborhood. In many cases grandparents are raising children that are raising children. There's a fear among seniors that they'd rather be with their grandchildren living in abuse than be living without them somewhere else. They live in fear and it's a problem that's growing."

AP Photo: Ben Curtis
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Juma Abdalla Athanas, 65

Juma Abdalla Athanas, 65, stands outside his home in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya on Friday, Sept. 6. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Abdalla Athanas said, "We are waiting for the title deeds to our land and the main problem is how are we going to leave it to our sons and grandsons? We have had many problems, every government is lying to us and each government comes and goes and we are still waiting." "My health is the problem, I don't have strength, the way I am getting old. There are different types of old people – those who have money can be taken to the old people's home, but for those who don't have money, we have nowhere to go."

AP Photo: Ramon Espinosa
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Claudio Rodriguez Contreras, 71

Claudio Rodriguez Contreras, 71, a veteran of the Cuban revolution, poses for a photo at his home in Havana, Cuba on Saturday, June 15, 2013. When asked: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of and what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country? Contreras said, "Cuban elderly have no biggest fears of old age, as our revolutionary government within its means helps us with minimal requirements - a pension, free medical care, food, home, and keeps us active in society. The problem at my old age is that because of the embargo that Cuba receives, our country can not develop as it should and we can not enjoy seeing the dreams made for our children."

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