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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2003 Sep-Oct;37(2):147-55.

Characterizing the elderly homeless: a 10-year study in Israel.

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  • 1Department of Psychogeriatric, Abarbanel Mental Health Center, 59100 Bat-Yam, Israel.


Since 1980s there is a noticeable change in the homeless population in Western countries. Some researchers titled the change as the "new" homeless that are distinctly different than the "skid row" population described in the past. Among the "new" homeless there are increasing numbers of elderly subjects. The elderly homeless are a fragile and vulnerable group that suffers from high rates of physical and mental problems as well as increased mortality. The aim of the present study was to characterize the "new" elderly homeless. Over a 10-year period each homeless 65 years of age and older was assessed by a psychiatrist. The project was undertaken in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and was feasible due to close co-operation between the Municipal Welfare Department and mental health consultants. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) was the main diagnostic tool. Ninety-eight subjects of 2567 homeless persons located and contacted were elderly (3.8%). Mean age for the elderly sub-group was 71.7+/-5.3 years and the great majority were male 94/98 (95.9%). In 44/98 (44.9%), a formal DSM-IV axis I psychiatric disorder was diagnosed, most common being dementia (15/44) and schizophrenia (15/44). A significant minority of 13/44 (29.5%) were diagnosed and treated prior to becoming homeless. Physical co-morbidity was found in nearly 2/3 subjects. Following intensive case-management by social workers, 35/44 (79.5%) subjects were successfully placed in permanent housing. The main conclusion is that the "new" elderly homeless are typically males suffering from frequent psychiatric morbidity and physical co-morbidity. Intensive case-management succeeded in achieving return to permanent housing in the majority of subjects.

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