Israel will have 1.4 million citizens 65 years or older by 2030. That works out to 14% of the total projected population, or about one in 7 people, according to Finance Ministry figures.
Currently, people over 65 make up only 10% of the population - one in 10 people.
A rapid increase in the number of older citizens may bring social services to the point of collapse, a concern in countries with rapidly aging populations such as the United States.
Most of the country's elderly citizens are dependent on old-age stipends from the state, and one-quarter are also dependent on income supplements.
More than half of the elderly - 54.8% - are defined as poor, states the Ministry for Senior Citizens. After factoring in state payments, the figure drops to 19.6%.
The state currently spends NIS 1.4 billion caring for elderly citizens under the Nursing Law, said Ministry Director General Aharon Azoulay. But that figure is likely to expand significantly, he said.
"From the late 1970s through the end of the 1980s, the average patient needed 1.8 years of nursing care," he said. "Now the figure is 3.7 years. By 2030 at this pace, it will be 6 to 7 years, and costs will increase accordingly. People over the age of 85 will need more years of care."
The only solution is increasing the number of people over age 65 who are still working, he said. Currently, the figure is 12.6%.
"I don't see anything wrong with postponing retirement," he said. "It's for the good of older citizens, and I don't want to do anything by force. We conducted a survey that found that most people right before retirement age and after retirement age want to work. After two or three years in retirement, people miss working and are fed up with not doing anything."
This means addressing ageism in the Israeli labor market, where people are considered old by 45, he said. Every year through 2030, tens of thousands of pensioners need to return to work, he said.
"Every year, the 67-year-old new retirees are healthier, younger and more technologically knowledgeable, and thus better prepared to keep working," he said.
Pensioners can no longer be lumped into one group, he added. "A 67-year-old bears no resemblance to a 97-year-old," he said. "A younger pensioner can still offer value, volunteer, work, help the economy expand. He or she offers the economy way more than it would need to invest in him," he said.
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