Caring for Our Elders: Early Responses, India Ageing Report - 2017
This report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – supported by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – examines the concerns of the elderly (those above 60 years of age) in India. It collates existing data (including from the National Sample Survey Rounds, the Census of India, and the National Family Health Survey) on the elderly in the country, and examines case studies on elder care from different states.
The elderly constitute
nearly 11.5 per cent of the global population of 7 billion, the report says.
This is projected to increase to 22 per cent by 2050 – the elderly will then
outnumber children (those below 15 years of age). The report estimates that by
2050, 19 per cent of India’s population will be above 60 years.
This rising population of
senior citizens, the report notes, has specific emotional, economic, physical
and medical needs. These include income insecurity, elder abuse, chronic
disease and poor social security. Working age persons perform some of these
support functions, but their numbers are shrinking, in comparison. The report
discusses ways in which the government of India and non-governmental
organisations can respond to these gaps.
The report also outlines the specific concerns of elderly women, who “are more likely to be widowed, living alone, with no income and with fewer assets of their own and fully dependent on family for support.”
Using data from the 24th round of UN population estimates, the report says the elderly population in Asia is estimated to increase from 10.5 per cent in 2012 to 22.4 per cent in 2050. In India, it is expected to rise from 8 per cent in 2015 to 19 per cent in 2050, and to 34 per cent by the end of the century.
Three key demographic changes – declining fertility, reduction in mortality and increasing survival at older ages – contribute to population ageing.
The elderly population in India varies across states and regions, the report says, drawing on data from Census 2011. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have the highest percentage of senior citizens, and in that sequence. States with a lower elderly population include Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam.
The report says that family remains the first social institution for elder care in India. With migration for employment on the rise, the ability or willingness of children to look after older parents, or live with them, is declining.
The population of those above the age of 80 years is estimated to grow by 700 per cent, between 2000 and 2050, the report notes, drawing on data from The State of Elderly in India, 2014. There is a predominance of widowed and ‘highly dependent’ women in this age group. The concerns of this category should be specifically addressed by government policy and programmes.
Citing Census 2011 , the report notes that 71 per cent of the elderly in India live in rural areas, where connectivity is poor, as is access to quality healthcare. Yet, the elderly prefer to live in their own communities rather than migrate to places that have such facilities.
Drawing on the UNFPA’s Building a Knowledge Base on Population Ageing in India (BKPAI) – a 2012 survey of the elderly population in seven Indian states (Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu ), the report says that about 26 per cent of men, and 60 per cent of women, do not have any personal income. Wages are a major source of income for older men, indicating that they work to support themselves.
The report lists two main government of India initiatives for elder care – the National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE, started in 2010) and the Integrated Plan for Older Persons (IPOP, started in 1992). These, it claims, are comprehensive, cover a large area, and are adequately funded and executed.
IPOP does not directly provide services – including food, shelter, and medical care – to the elderly, but does so through NGOs, Panchayati Raj Institutions and other local bodies.
Several social security schemes also cover India’s elderly, such as the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme, and Annapurna Yojana. The BKPAI survey showed that about 70 per cent of BPL (below poverty line) households were aware of such schemes. In the elderly population, this awareness was higher among males than females.
Citing a 2015 study of social assistance by Pension Parishad (a network of groups) and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the report makes several recommendations. These include universalising social pensions, regular payments on a fixed date every month and a focus on vulnerable groups.
Among other measures, the report recommends a standardisation of facilities in old-age homes across the country, implementation of subsidised health insurance for BPL households, and establishing senior citizen clubs to address loneliness and isolation. It also suggests that senior citizens should find better representation in the Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads to help highlight their concerns.
Focus and Factoids by Vaishnavi Rathi.
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Population Fund, New Delhi
19 Jun, 2017