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Issues Related to Elderly Population

Context: India’s increasingly greying population calls for the need to pay urgent attention to senior citizens and their mental health.

Status of Elderly Population in India:

  • According to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, a senior citizen is any person being a citizen of India, who has attained the age of sixty years or above.
  • Of the total World’s Elderly Population, 1/8th live in India.
  • According to Population Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons in India which has increased from 5.5% in 1951 to 8.6% in 2011.
  • With respect to rural and urban areas, more than 73 million persons i.e. 71% of elderly population resides in rural areas while 31 million or 29% of elderly population are in urban areas.
  • India accounted for 149 million older adults (10.5%) in 2022 and this number is projected to grow to 347 million (20.8%) by 2050.

Ageing India Report:

“India Ageing Report 2023” was recently released by UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) India, in collaboration with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS).

Major Findings of the Report

Ageing in India – Key Trends Prospects of the older population
  • The share of population over the age of 60 years is projected to increase from 10.5 percent in 2022 to 15 percent in 2036, and 20.8 percent in 2050.
  • By the end of the century, the elderly will constitute over 36 percent of the total population of the country.
Regional Variations
  • States in the southern region and select northern states like Himachal Pradesh and Punjab report a higher share of the elderly population than the national average.
  • In contrast, states with higher fertility rates like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will see an increase in the share of the elderly population but at a lower level than the national average.
Ageing index
  • The ageing index measures the number of elderly (60+ years) per 100 children population (below 15 years) and the index score increases as the population ages.
  • There are 39 older persons per 100 children in India according to 2021 population estimates.
  • Compared to southern and western India, central and northeastern regions have the younger group of states as indicated by the ageing index.
Old-age dependency ratio
  • The old-age dependency ratio of a population represents the number of persons aged 60+ years per 100 persons in the 15–59 years (or working-age) group.
    • The higher the ratio, the greater the old age-related dependency, reflecting higher levels of demand for care from immediate family.
  • There were 16 older persons per 100 working-age persons in India in 2021.
  • In the southern region, the old-age dependency ratio was higher than the national average at around 20.
Life expectancy
  • At 60 years, a person in India may expect to live another 18.3 years, which is higher in case of females at 19 years as compared to males at 17.5 years.
Challenges of Ageing Population
  • Feminization: Women, on average, have a higher life expectancy at the ages of 60 and 80 compared to men.
  • Ruralization: According to Census of India 2011, on an average, 71 percent of older persons live in rural areas.
  • Ageing of the aged: During 2000–2022, the total population of the country grew by 34 percent, while the population of 60+ years grew by 103 percent, whereas 80+ years grew by 128 percent during the same period.
Vulnerability among Older Population
  • Health related vulnerability:  In India, nearly one-fifth of the elderly have at least one Activities of Daily Living (ADL) limitation. And overall prevalence of multi-morbidity in elderly is 23.3 percent in India.
  • Economic vulnerability: Overall, more than two-fifth of the elderly in India are in the poorest wealth quintile.

Challenges Faced by the Elderly Population:

Lack of Income & Poor Financial Status:

  • Falling interest rates affect the savings and many elderly rely on pensions.
  • 43% of the elderly in India earn nothing and 22% earn less than INR 12,000 annually.

Rising Healthcare Costs:

  • Increased healthcare needs more finances and there has been increased worries about adequate standards of living in old age.

Insufficient Housing Facilities:

  • 47% of the elderly depend economically on families and 34% rely on pensions.
  • Their Desire to work, financial constraints, and neglect at home force their dependence on day care centres and old age homes.

Health Challenges:

  • 20% of elderly in India face mental health issues; 75% have chronic diseases.
  • Degenerative and communicable diseases afflict the elderly; morbidity includes infections, visual impairment, and disabilities.

Social Challenges:

  • There is Weakening social bonds in urban areas coupled with financial constraints that limit activities.
  • Elder abuse, including physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse, is prevalent.
  • Rising isolation and loneliness; feelings of being a burden to the family.

Psychological Problems:

  • Sense of powerlessness, inferiority, depression, uselessness, and reduced competence.

Digitization Challenges:

  • Digital illiteracy hampers access to essential services.
  • Digital divide widens the generation gap; trust deficit and fear inhibit technology adoption.
  • Reduced personal ties due to communication gaps with younger generations.

Government Initiatives for the Elderly Population:

  • Social Security and Welfare Schemes:
    • Antodaya Anna Yojana: highly subsidized food grains to poorest families including elderly.
    • Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana: insurance scheme for senior citizens that offers guaranteed pension income.
    • Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana: pension scheme for elderly citizens, providing regular income and financial security.
    • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS): social security program that provides financial assistance to elderly individuals in need.
    • Jeevan Pramaan: A digital life certificate for pensioners, simplifying the pension verification process.
    • Atal Pension Yojana: aimed at providing a stable income to individuals during their retirement years.
    • Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana: insurance scheme that offers accidental death and disability coverage to citizens.
    • Senior Citizens’ Savings Scheme (SCSS): A savings scheme designed for senior citizens, offering regular interest income.
  • Legislations Related to Older Persons:
    • Maintenance and Welfare of Senior Citizens Act, 2007: This Act makes it legally obliging for adult children and heirs to provide for parents by way of a monthly allowance.
    • National Policy on Older Persons, 1999: The Policy visualizes that the State will extend support for financial security, health care, shelter, welfare and other needs of older persons, provide protection against abuse and exploitation, make available opportunities for development of the potential of older persons, seek their participation, and provide services so that they can improve the quality of their lives.
    • National Council of Senior Citizens:  Led by the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, the Council, has a five-year term, will review policy execution and advise the government on senior citizen problems.
    • Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund: The Fund was established under the Finance Act,2015. The fund is to be utilized for such schemes for the promotion of the welfare of senior citizens, in line with the National Policy on Older Persons.
  • Programmes for the Elderly:
    • Atal Vayo Abhyuday Yojana: This Plan takes care of the top four needs of the senior citizens viz financial security, food, health care and human interaction /life of dignity.
    • Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana: A scheme for providing physical Aids and Assisted living devices to Senior Citizens.
    • Anubhav platform: To provide a platform for the retiring Central Government employees to showcase commendable work done during service. This would provide satisfaction to the retiring employee and act as a motivator for serving employees.

Way Forward:

  • Strengthening the National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) and enhancing collaboration among various ministries for its effective implementation.
  • Encouraging regular feedback and audits of programs for senior citizens to improve their relevance and impact.
  • Mobilizing funds, including corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds, to support the development of Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) serving the elderly.
  • Promoting intergenerational solidarity to nurture relationships between generations and highlight the contributions of the elderly.
  • Strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and expanding their capacity to support senior citizens at the community level.
  • Encouraging private sector participation in elder care and establishing public-private collaborations to address issues related to ageing.
  • Focusing on older persons’ needs in disaster preparedness plans and creating a network of helplines for their support.
  • Enhancing data systems and conducting micro-level studies to better understand the elderly population and improve programs and initiatives for their well-being.

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