Until recent times, the elderly were loved and respected in their communities for sharing the wisdom and understanding that only comes with age. They were the gatekeepers of the oral histories that solidified a cultural or familial identity. They were the healers and midwives who not only cared for the sick and dying, but also expounded the meaning of life. Ultimately, the old brought a sense of continuity and cohesiveness that bound a community together.
In our fast-paced modern times, the way we judge the value of a person has drastically changed. Today, people are valued not for what they contribute to society, but by how much money they earn.For the elderly who have matured past their most "productive" years, the feelings of irrelevance aroused by their new status are difficult to process. Recreational activities, social clubs and volunteer opportunities are ways to stay active, but these are only accessible to those with means.
For the elderly poor however, the situation is quite different. Poverty adds to their already low self-esteem a multiplicity of practical problems: inadequate health care, precarious housing arrangements, inability to purchase basic groceries or the bus fare to get to crucial appointments, and unpaid utilities bills are just a few. Often, the combination of these maladies leads to depression and, in extreme cases, suicide. In fact, in 2006, the elderly made up 12.5% of the U.S. population, but committed an astounding 15.9% of all suicides nationwide (American Association of Suicidology ).
The poor, elderly immigrant population is one of the most vulnerable sectors of Israeli society. These elderly came to Israel late in life and struggle day by day to make ends meet in a society which is alien to them. Living thousands of miles from the culture that they understand, unable to communicate with those around them, and often physically or emotionally distant from family, these needy elderly are also the most isolated of all.
It is this population that Yad LaKashish works with today.