Population explosion of the elderly: India is currently witnessing an explosion in the elderly population due to an increase in the longevity of the old population and advances in medical technology. According to estimates, the share of old age persons in India’s population is expected to reach 12% of the population by 2030 and 19% of the population by 2050. According to projections, there will increase in feminization of the old age population.
Challenges Faced by Senior Citizens
Ageism: It refers to stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination towards others or oneself based on age. It is generally believed that old age people lack productivity.
Change in family structure and social milieu:
- Traditionally in India, the family took care of the elderly. However, with increasing nuclearisation, many children do not prefer to take care of their parents.
- Higher levels of unemployment and the search for better economic opportunities have forced family members to move to urban centres away from their parents.
- Increased level of skilling and education among girls and a higher share of women employed in urban areas has made it difficult for families to take care of the elderly.
Challenges of oldest old (80+):
- There is dependency. They need constant care and attention.
- Increased burden of healthcare costs especially non-communicable diseases such as Cancer, Hypertension and Diabetes. Often, they do not get the benefits of health insurance schemes due to age caps in existing health insurance policies. This leads to increased out-of-pocket expenditures.
- There is dependency. They need constant care and attention.
Challenges of elderly women:
- Elderly women have faced a lifetime of gender-based discrimination, lack access to property, have been burdened by household chores and often do not indulge in recreational activities.
- Women experience proportionately higher rates of chronic illness and disability in later life as compared to men.
- More than 50% of women over 80 years of age are widows.
Lack of access to pension and economic security:
- There is a high level of destitution among the elderly with many living below the poverty line.
- Senior citizens will have no option but to never retire and continue to work if physically possible when their ability to produce and earn has declined.
- The sharp decline in living standards for many can mean destitution.
- Access to pension and pension products is very low in India.
- They are often widowed and often miss the companionship of their life partner. They experience loneliness. Retirement brings a lack of identity which old age people often find difficult to adjust to.
- They fail to adapt to modern technologies and feel alienated for example, Often they are not adept with social media sites, using smartphones and accessing the internet.
- SAGE stands for Senior Care Ageing Growth Engine. A project to support India’s elderly population by identifying, evaluating, verifying, aggregating and delivering products, solutions and services directly to stakeholders.
- SAGE PORTAL: A portal to transparently select start-ups under the program. All proposals will be uploaded on it and selection will be based on blind review by an independent screening committee of experts.
- Equity support: A total of Rs 100 crores has been earmarked for equity support of selected start-ups in the next 5 years. Maximum equity support for any start-up will be Rs 1 crore. The funding will come from Senior Citizen Welfare Fund.
Senior Citizen Welfare Fund
- It was established in 2016 to fund activities that would bring significant changes to the lives of the elderly in India.
- It is funded by unclaimed deposits in EPF and other public funds.
- Rastriya Vayoshri Yojana is funded through this.
Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana
- A central sector scheme Implemented by Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation (ALIMCO)
- Expenditure for the implementation of the scheme will be met from the “Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund.
- To provide Senior Citizens, belonging to the BPL category and suffering from age-related disabilities, with physical aids & assisted living devices which can restore near normalcy in their bodily functions.
- The scheme will address disabilities like low vision, hearing impairment, loss of teeth and locomotor disability with such assisted-living devices which can restore near normalcy in their bodily functions.
- The devices are distributed in the camp mode.
The Draft National Policy for Senior Citizens 2020 has made the following suggestions:
Promoting productive ageing:
- The age of retirement should be increased from 60 to 65. Second life career: Finding suitable places where old age can contribute to their experience.
- These careers can be teaching in schools, or acting as consultants in government departments and businesses.
- Need to better create awareness in people in younger age groups about old-age planning, looking after health and engaging in Yoga etc to have a healthy old age life.
Promoting multigenerational and inter-generational bonding
- The Maintenance of Senior Citizens Act should be amended to make it compulsory for the next generation of old age persons to take care of them if they want an inheritance.
- Promotion of NGOs, and community-based organizations to work for the old age population.
Economic security and pension:
- Senior-friendly tax structures
- Promote and expand the existing pension programs to ensure income security for senior citizens. The old age pension scheme under the Ministry of Rural Development should be reviewed occasionally to cover all seniors living with a disability or those below the poverty line.
- Development of the concept of ‘Silver Economy’ which focuses on developing financial products for old age needs.
- Universalisation of healthcare especially for the old age population. All old age persons should be covered under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme.
- The upper age limit for coverage of health insurance should be increased.
- Greater attention on addressing non-communicable diseases with which old age people suffer disproportionately.
- Increased research and investment in setting up old age homes, geriatric care and specialized professionals who can address the needs of the elderly.
Special focus on elderly females:
- Increasing pension for widows.
- Mass drives for ensuring they have access to government schemes.
Innovations in Old Age:
- Startups working on developing tools for the elderly need to be promoted. Special tools such as hearing aids and other prosthetics must be much more accessible.
- Applications for the old age population can be developed.
The elderly have cared for the current generation. It is our duty to care for them. This will lay the foundation of a sustainable society based on ethics of care.
Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana
As per the Census figures of 2011, the population of senior citizens in India is 10.38 crore. More than 70% of the population of senior citizens live in rural areas of the country. A sizeable percentage (5.2%) of senior citizens suffer from some sort of disability related to old age. Projections indicate that the number of elderly populations will increase to around 173 million by 2026.
The Government has hence devised the Central Sector Scheme- “Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana” to provide Physical aids and Assisted Living Devices for senior citizens suffering from age-related disabilities/ infirmities, who belong to the BPL category.
Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund
A “Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund (SCWF)” has been established under the Finance Act, 2015, to be utilized for such schemes for the promotion of the welfare of senior citizens, in line with the National Policy on Older Persons. The unclaimed money lying under Small Savings Schemes, Employees Provident Fund, Public Provident Fund schemes, Life and non-life insurance schemes or polices maintained by insurance companies and accounts of Coal Mines Provident Fund is transferred into Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund.
Draft National Policy on Senior Citizens, 2020
The draft policy aims to address the challenges faced by elderly by providing for –
- Tax exemptions on senior care solutions like care homes.
- Support to find second career options like teaching, consulting for income support.
- Integrated insurance products to help seniors to embrace a lifestyle of their choice.
- Microfinancing assistance to self-help groups of senior citizens.
- Subsidized medical support to below poverty line elderly people.
- Setting up of national and regional ageing institutions for geriatric healthcare.
- Creation of a welfare fund through welfare cess.
- Separate ministry dedicated to the elderly.
- Mechanism to prevent abuse of elderly people.