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Aging India

and , January 14, 2016, 0 Comments

aging-india-marketexpress-inIndia has a young population. The demographics of the country are such that the number of young people in the population is high. At the same time the country has an aging population. The proportion of elderly in the population is going on increasing. The proportion of elderly in the age group 60-69 years has risen from 5.63% in 1961 to 6.58% in 1991 and is expected to go up further to 9.87% in 2021. The proportion of elderly (70 years and above) is expected to increase from 2.40% in 1991 to 3.75% by 2021 in our country.

The second largest population of the aged in the world is to be found in India. Today, there are an estimated 100 million elderly in India and by 2050 it is expected to reach 326 million out of which 75% will live in rural areas.

An aging population brings with it a number of challenges. The population in the age group 60-69 years may be able to take care of themselves. But the population above 70 years of age needs to be cared for. In the traditional Indian society the joint family existed to look after needs of the very young and the very old. But this security system can no longer be relied upon in modern day India. In today’s India the joint family system is breaking down and the nuclear family is more often than not becoming the rule.

Indians have not yet developed the habit for saving for old age. It is accepted that one’s children will look after the elderly in their old age. But this expectation is not always realized in the modern competitive society. A system of pension with universal coverage has not yet come into being. It is only a small subset of country’s population comprising people working in government, the armed forces and so on who enjoy the privilege of a comprehensive old age pension scheme. The rest of the elderly population is at the mercy of their children for economic security if they have not saved enough for old age.

In old age it is not only economic security that is of importance. Besides being provided with required material needs the old also needs to be cared for and looked after. This is a task expected to be performed by the children of the elderly. But the younger generation engaged in the rat race of modern living may not have sufficient time and money to devote to the elderly. It is here that care providing old age homes have to step in. Here again old age homes may successfully provide material security but fail to provide emotional security.

It has been observed that elderly women may better adjust to the problem of old age deprivation. But for the elderly male the challenge may turn out to more difficult to cope up with. In several instances it is found that the elderly belonging to the less well-off category prefer to stay in old age homes because here they are at least assured of getting two square meals a day. On the other instance elderly belonging to the economically better off category often resent the idea of staying in old age homes because here they are deprived of emotional security.

The elderly nurture several expectations from the government. The most prominent among these is a universal old age pension system. A facility that can be easily be extended by modern governments is cost free transport in the public transport system. Free medical service facilities in hospitals are another eagerly sought after privilege by the elderly. So also a weekly mobile clinic facility would be a great help to the elderly in rural areas.

A scheme of assistance to Panchayat Raj Institutions, voluntary organizations and self-help groups for the construction of old age homes and multiservice centers is being implemented. This scheme provides a one-time construction grant. The government should provide free electricity and free water supply to old age homes run by voluntary organizations.

The elderly face mainly three types of handicaps: hearing, seeing and walking, the most common being the problems in seeing and hearing. These two handicaps can be rectified by wearing glasses and hearing aids which should be made freely available to elderly in rural areas.

Lucky will be one who can spend his old age in comfort. Old age is a period when you are not expected to shoulder family responsibilities. This gives the elderly all the free time to do whatever one likes to do. He/she can engage in quiet literary pursuits. To others old age may provide opportunity to engage in religious activities. Thus one need not always look at only the gloomy side of old age. Old age can also provide a set of opportunities where one can enjoy several activities one was deprived of in the younger ages.