According to Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons (aged 60 years or above) in India; 53 million females and 51 million males. Both the share and size of elderly population is increasing over time.
A report jointly brought out by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International says that India’s population is likely to increase by 60% between 2000 and 2050 but the number of elders, who have attained 60 years of age, will shoot up by 360 % and the government should start framing policies now, else its consequences are likely to take it by surprise. India has around 100 million elderly at present and the number is expected to increase to 323 million constituting 20% of the total population by 2050.
Elderly or old age consists of ages nearing or surpassing the average life span of human beings. The boundary of old age cannot be defined exactly because it does not have the same meaning in all societies. Government of India adopted ‘National Policy on Older Persons’ in January 1999. The policy defines senior citizen’ or ‘elderly’ as a person who is of age 60 years or above. Also, as per Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, senior citizen means any person being a citizen of India, who has attained the age of 60 years or above.
The traditional norms and values of Indian society laid stress on showing respect and providing care for the elderly. Consequently, the older members of the family were normally taken care of in the family itself. The family, commonly the joint family type and social networks provided an appropriate environment in which the elderly spent their lives. The advent of modernisation, industrialisation, urbanisation, occupational differentiation, education and growth of individualistic philosophy has eroded the traditional values that vested authority with elderly.
Nowadays some children send their parents to old age homes, so that they don’t have to take care of them. Family care of the elderly seems likely to decrease in the future with the economic development of the nation and modernisation.
The elderly, especially those who are weak and dependent, require physical, mental and emotional care and support. When this is not provided, they suffer from neglect, a problem that occurs when a person is left uncared for and that is often linked with isolation. The best way to address neglect of the elderly is to counsel families, sensitise community leaders and address the issue at all levels in different forums.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is implementing a Central Sector Scheme of Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP) since 1992 with the objective of improving the quality of life of senior citizens by providing basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and entertainment opportunities and by encouraging productive and active ageing. Under this scheme, financial assistance is provided to non-governmental/voluntary organisations, Panchayati Raj Institutions etc for maintenance of Old Age Homes, Respite Care Homes and Continuous Care Homes, Multi-Service Centres etc.
Old age pension is provided under the Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme, which is a component of National Social Assistance Programme, implemented by Ministry of Rural Development. Under this, assistance of 200 per month is provided to persons in the age group of 60-79 years and 500 per month to persons of 80 years and above and belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) household as per the criteria by Government of India. State/UTs have been requested to contribute at least the same amount under the scheme.
Keeping in view the recommendations made in the National Policy on Older Persons, 1999 as well as the state’s obligation under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens, 2007, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had launched the National Programme for health care of the elderly during the 11th Plan period to address various health related problems of elderly people.
In today’s fast moving world, old age homes should not be looked down upon totally. They can be a secure place for the parents of those children who are working out of India or in some other distant city where they cannot visit or look after their parents regularly. However to opt for a old age home, choice should be left to the parents. We can also opt for many creative ideas like play houses and old age homes to be made together so that the children also get old people to talk to and old people can also have a good time. These kinds of ideas are always best for the community as a whole.
There is no one who would not grow old. Every being on the earth inevitably follows the cycle, determined by nature that takes him/her through variegated phases of childhood, adolescence, adulthood and maturity. Each stage has its own vigour, its set of responsibilities and its particular problems. So, we should work in a way that everyone is benefited and no one is isolated. The government cannot do everything; the community itself has to step forward to take this responsibility and come out with some of the out of the box ideas to make this earth a better place for everyone to live on, where everyone is taken care of.