Elderly in India 2021


This report was published in August 2021 by the Social Statistics Division at the National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. It is the fifth Elderly in India report, the first of which was brought out in the year 2000. The report uses the terms ‘senior citizen’ and ‘elderly’ for persons aged 60 or more – in keeping with the National Policy for Older Persons adopted by the government of India in 1999.

The publication consolidates government data on various aspects of the lives of the elderly population in India. In doing so, the report aims to aid the formulation of welfare policies for the elderly, and help mitigate the ill-effects of an ageing population on labour force participation, and health and pension expenditures.

The 118-page document is divided into five chapters: Introduction (chapter 1); Schemes and Programmes of Government of India for the Welfare of Elderly Persons (chapter 2); Population and Vital Statistics (chapter 3); Economic Status (chapter 4); Health and Social Status (chapter 5).


  1. The elderly population in India has been increasing since 1961 – as per data from Population Projections for India and States 2011-2036, a report published by the National Commission on Population in July 2020. This has been attributed to greater longevity of life as a result of better healthcare and economic well-being. During 2001-11, the elderly population grew by more than 27 million. This increase is expected to be 34 million in 2011-21 and 56 million in 2021-31.

  2. The 2020 National Commission on Population report estimates that there will be nearly 138 million elderly persons in India in 2021, comprising of 67 million males and 71 million females.

  3. The growth rate of the elderly population is higher than that of the general population. As a result, the proportion of the elderly in the general population has been increasing. While the general population has grown by 18 per cent in 2001-11 and 12.4 per cent in 2011-21, the elderly population has grown by 36 per cent each in the two decades.

  4. Kerala is expected to have the highest proportion of elderly persons in its population by the year 2021 at 16.5 per cent. Bihar is likely to have the lowest proportion at 7.7 per cent.

  5. ‘Old age dependency ratio’ is defined as the number of elderly people per 100 persons between the ages of 15-59. This number grew from 10.9 per cent in 1961 to 14.2 per cent in 2011, and is projected to increase further to 15.7 per cent in 2021 – according to the National Commission on Population data.

  6. NSO’s National Sample Survey (NSS) data from 2017-2018 notes 70 per cent of the elderly in India were dependent on others for their daily living. The situation was worse for females – only 10 per cent and 11 per cent of females were economically independent in rural and urban areas respectively, compared to the 48 per cent and 57 per cent of males in rural and urban areas.

  7. Kerala has the highest life expectancy at birth – 72.5 years for males and 77.9 years for females – according to data from the yearly Sample Registration System reports from 2014-18, published by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs. At the same time, Uttar Pradesh has the lowest life expectancy at birth at 64.8 years for males and 65.8 years for females.

  8. The NSO’s report Periodic Labour Force Survey 2018-2019 reveals that the participation of those aged 60-64 in economic activities has fallen from 49.3 per cent in 2011-12 to 40.9 per cent in 2018-19. About 72 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women of this age group participated in economic activities in rural areas, and 51 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women in urban areas.

  9. The 2011 Census notes the literacy rate of elderly females and males to be 28 per cent and 59 per cent. Only 18 per cent females in rural areas and 53 per cent in urban areas were recorded as literate.

  10. In both urban and rural areas, the proportion of elderly females participating in unpaid domestic work is almost twice that of males. However, the proportion of elderly females participating in paid employment activities is far less than that of males.

  11. As per the 76th round of the NSS conducted in 2018, the most common disability among the elderly is locomotor disability (5.5 per cent) followed by hearing disability (1.6 per cent) and visual disability (1.4 per cent). The occurrence of the latter two is slightly higher in rural as compared to urban areas. More than 50 per cent of elderly persons suffering from a disability – other than mental illness – have consulted doctors and are undergoing treatment.

  12. According to 2019 data from the Ministry of Home Affair’s National Crime Records Bureau, the highest crime rate per lakh population for offences committed against the elderly were found in Delhi (93.8 crimes), whereas states like Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Uttarakhand, reported rates of less than one crime per lakh population.

    Focus and factoids by Swayambhu Sudyut.


Social Statistics Division, National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, New Delhi


Social Statistics Division, National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, New Delhi


Aug, 2021