Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Several measures should be used to have a clear picture of poverty in old age, including income, consumption, assets, wealth, and self-perceived poverty

Kwan C, Walsh C.  Old age poverty: A scoping review of the literature  Cogent Social Sciences. 2018; 4(1): 1-21.

Review question

      What is known from the research literature about poverty in old age?


      With an expected two billion individuals over the age of 60 by 2050, the growing rate of the older population is unprecedented due to declining numbers of mortality and fertility.

      Poverty and social exclusion are affecting many older adults.

      Literature investigating the topic of poverty in old age is limited. There is a need to determine the challenges of the aging population. Such insights may provide us potential solutions. This review examined the available research evidence on poverty in old age to highlight the knowledge gaps and suggest a direction for future research.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published from 2007 to 2017 was conducted. Studies that focused on older persons and poverty were included in the review.

      A total of 1,441 studies were identified in searches, and 56 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

      This review was funded by the University of Calgary.

What the researchers found

      This review found that traditionally, poverty has been measured from a lens of income, consumption and asset/wealth indicators, despite modern trends to view poverty as a more complex phenomenon. This is important because traditional definitions of poverty somewhat mask or underestimate the high rates of impoverished older adults.

      This review found that social pensions offer financial protection for many older adults in poverty worldwide. This social policy is positively correlated with improved health and well-being for the aging population.

      Included studies also determined that women are more likely to experience negative outcomes due to poverty at an old age.


      This review highlighted the need to define poverty using different measures, including income and consumption, assets, wealth, and self-perceived poverty measures.

      Included studies found a discrepancy between older women and men experiencing poverty and highlighted the importance of social pensions as a financial support for older adults that could improve overall well-being.

      Further research is recommended since literature on poverty in old age remains somewhat limited.

Related Topics

Related Web Resources

DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Register for free access to all Professional content