The ‘Voice training toolkit’ helps partners, network members, and staff strengthen their ability to implement activities that ensure older people are heard at all levels.

The food, fuel, finance crisis: Colombia under the spotlight


This project looks at the impact of the global food, fuel and finance crisis in 10 different countries, and what this means for older people who are often overlooked, despite their very specific needs.

After Lebanon, we turn the spotlight on the situation of older people in Colombia, the ninth country in this series.

Older people in crisis in Colombia

Rising food and fuel costs together with an ever-worsening financial conditions are adversely affecting older people in Colombia, especially those with an already low or no income.

Read the brief here

Plagued by crises

The food, fuel and finance crisis is not perceived as a new crisis in Colombia. It is one built on the back of previous crises beleaguering the country.

Many older people in Colombia have been victims of violence during their lives or have grown up in violent contexts. The country has experienced widespread crime and an internal armed conflict of six decades with more than nine million victims, including more than one million people between 61 and 100 years of age. Many Colombians’ lives have often been marked since childhood by violence, forced labour and periodic food shortages.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people’s wellbeing. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought about deep food insecurity in many Latin American countries. The situation is exacerbated by the global food, fuel and finance crisis – which has brought high inflation, as well as food and transport costs, oil price fluctuations, and gasoline price hikes.

Living in crisis is becoming a normal part of daily life in Colombia – to the point that the distinctions between these different crises and their impacts has now become blurred in people’s perceptions.

Older people are grappling under the weight of these multiple crises

Our research, in partnership with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and Hospital Universitario San Ignacio has thrown up alarming results.

Economic insecurity: In Colombia, about 25 per cent of older people receive a pension which is still inadequate to meet their needs. This pressurises them to continue working in the informal work sector with meagre pay.  Those who continue to work to support their livelihoods suffer from lower paid work and even harder access to jobs due to increased unemployment rates.

Before the pandemic, the most difficult thing was that the minimum wages never made a balance with the family basket (...), from 15 to 18 years ago to the present, the "rebusque" [informal casual job] has shot up, the sale of coffee on the corner, the candy stand, because the minimum wages do not compensate for the Colombian and much less for the older people to meet their basic needs.

Research participant

Social protection and housing: The family is the primary source of social support and care for older people. Some receive an inadequate amount of government contributions with limited coverage.

Many older people do not own the homes they live in – they are either unpaid, rented or sublet domiciles. Payment of services such as water, electricity, rubbish collection and gas has become a constant demand for the poorest poor people, restricting their ability to pay for other services.

Health: The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on older people, especially those with neurocognitive disorders and has led to increased emotional suffering, loneliness, stress, worry, and depression.

Receiving timely access to healthcare services remains a challenge for older Colombians. High transport costs due to a hike in fuel prices also discourage them from visiting health clinics. Dissatisfaction with the quality of health services prompts older people to migrate to alternative health systems, even if they are more expensive.

Hostile physical, social and cultural environments: Factors such as insecurity and hostility of the physical environment, increases in transport time and prices, and perceptions of discrimination also contribute to the situation facing older people in Colombia. Many have received a low formal schooling level or are illiterate which restricts their opportunities to access goods and services and demand their rights. Almost 64 per cent of older people do not use the internet either.

Measures for responding to the adversities faced by older people in Colombia

HelpAge and partners are urging the Colombian government to immediately address the dire situation of older people through the following measures:

  • Integrate diversity and intersectionality perspectives in all policies, programmes, and strategies
  • Guarantee older people’s access to physical, social, and cultural spaces, and new technologies
  • Provide capacity strengthening for older people including in the area of digital technologies
  • Review the pension and social security system, and guarantee a minimum basic income for older people
  • Formalise the employment status of those working in the informal sector
  • Provide education opportunities throughout the life cycle, without discrimination based on age.

Read HelpAge International’s policy brief: Older people in crisis in Colombia.

Hearing older people

The food, fuel and finance crisis

Rising food and fuel costs together with an ever-worsening financial conditions are affecting all of us. But for older people on an already low or no income, the situation is bleak. We take a look at why it’s happening, the toll it’s taking and what we could do about it.

Click here to know more