• India is at a peculiar stage in its demographic transition. India is characterized by a bulge in its youth population, which can be a window of opportunity to accelerate growth. However, a parallelly occurring phenomenon that requires equal attention with regard to India’s economic growth trajectory is rapid aging, i.e., rising elderly population.
  • Ageing is a continuous, irreversible, universal process, which starts from conception till the death of an individual.
  • However, the age at which one’s productive contribution declines and one tends to be economically dependent can probably be treated as the onset of the aged stage of life.
  • According to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, a senior citizen means any person being a citizen of India, who has attained the age of sixty years or above.
  • demographically young country like India is ageing gradually. By 2050, 1 out of every 5 people in India will be over 60.
  • Out of the World’s Elderly Population, 1/8th lives in India.
  • The percentage of the senior citizens in India’s population has been growing at an increasing rate in recent years and the trend is likely to continue, First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN.
  • According to the State of World Population 2019 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), India’s elderly population expected to triple from 104 million in 2011 to 300 million by 2050, accounting for 18% of the total population.
  • Economic Survey 2018-19 points out that India may face an increasingly ageing population just like developed nations like Germany and France. 
  • States like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal and Maharashtra are already witnessing an ageing phenomenon.
  • As India’s economy has progressed, people have better access to healthcare, information and awareness around fertility. Thus, the country has witnessed a sharp decline in the total fertility rate (TFR) since the mid-1980s.

Population figures on ageing

  • Age division of Indian population (0-14) is 30.8%, (15-59) is 60.3%, (60+) is 8.6%.
  • According to Population Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons in India.
  • It has increased from 5.5% in 1951 to 8.6% in 2011.
  • Projected a rise upto 12.5% by 2026, and 19% in 2050.
  • As regards rural and urban areas, more than 73 million persons i.e. 71% of elderly population resides in rural areas while 31 million or 29% of elderly population are in urban area.

Feminisation of ageing

  • Among the challenges which India faces, UNPF report says the feminisation of ageing remained a key one.
  • The sex ratio of the elderly has increased from 938 women to 1,000 men in 1971 to 1,033 in 2011 and is projected to increase to 1,060 by 2026.
  • The report also noted that between 2000 and 2050, the population of 80-plus people would have grown 700% “with a predominance of widowed and highly dependent very old women” and so the special needs of such old women would need significant focus of policy and programmes.
  •  According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s (MOSPI) “Elderly in India 2021” report, the projected dependency ratio for females and males is 14.8% and 16.7% respectively in 2021.

Problems of elderly population in India

Economic:

  • Lack of Income & Poor financial status:
    • Lower income or poverty has been found to be associated with elder abuse. Low economic resources have been conceptualized as a contextual or situational stressor contributing to elder abuse.
    • Due to steadily falling interest rates on bank deposits steadily most middle class elderly actually depend on elderly pension to sustain themselves.
    • In India, 74 pc of the elderly men and 41 pc of the elderly women receive some personal income whereas 43 pc of the ageing population earn nothing at all. 22 pc of those ageing Indians getting a personal income receive less than INR 12,000 per annum – PFRDA report on Financial Security of India’s elderly, April 2017.
  • Rise in the Health care costs:
    • As older people stop working and their health care needs increase, governments could be overwhelmed by unprecedented costs.
    • While there may be cause for optimism about population aging in some countries, the Pew survey reveals that residents of countries such as Japan, Italy, and Russia are the least confident about achieving an adequate standard of living in old age.
  • Insufficient housing facility.
    • A national survey carried out by the NGO HelpAge India has shown that as many as 47% of elderly people are economically dependent on their families for income and 34% are relied on pensions and cash transfers, while 40% of the surveyed people have expressed the desire to work “as long as possible”.

Health:

  • Rise in age-related chronic illness:
    • One in five elderly persons in India has mental health issues. Around 75 per cent of them suffer from a chronic disease. And 40 per cent have some or other disability. These are the findings of the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) in 2021.
    • Older people suffer from both degenerative and communicable diseases due to the ageing of the body’s immune system.
    • The leading causes of morbidity are infections, while visual impairment, difficulty in walking, chewing, hearing, osteoporosis, arthritis and incontinence are other common health-related problems.
  • Increasing need for geriatric care:
    • The number of sick and frail elderly needing affordable nursing homes or assisted living centers will likely increase.
    • Absence of geriatric care facilities at hospitals in rural area.
    • According to a recent survey, 30% to 50% of elderly people had symptoms that make them depressed. A large majority of elderly persons living alone are women, especially widows.
    • Depression is strongly correlated with poverty, poor health, and loneliness.

Social:

  • Urban areas, Changing social systems and Elderly:
    • With adults in formal jobs and children occupied by school activities no one is left at house to take care of elderly people. The bonds among neighbours are not as strong as in rural areas.
    • Financial constraints don’t allow them to pursue creativities.
    • Neglect from family members force many to prefer day care centres and old age homes than staying with children. 
  • Abuse of the elderly population:
    • Abuse of the elderly is a growing international problem with several manifestations in different countries and cultures. It is a fundamental violation of human rights and leads to several health and emotional problems.
    • The abuse can be classified as physical, sexual, psychological or financial.
    • The ill-treatment is relatively more frequent among elderly women and those living in rural areas, according to the report.
  • Isolation and loneliness among the elderly is rising:
    • Nearly half the elderly felt sad and neglected, 36 per cent felt they were a burden to the family.
    • The emotional harm that may emerge from verbal or emotional abuse encompasses torture, sorrow, fear, perverse emotional discomfort, loss of personal pride or sovereignty.
  • Declining moral value system:
    • At the socio-cultural level, a representation of an older person as weak and dependent, lack of funds to pay for care, elderly people who need assistance but live alone, and destruction of bonds between the generations of a family are possible factors in elder abuse.
  • Caste and Elderly:
    • Due to financial issues: The lower caste elderly due to financial issues have to keep on working for livelihood even at old age. Although difficult but it keeps them active, maintains sense of self-worth and garners respect from family.
    • While for the upper caste elderlies, good jobs become less available and they hesitate to take menial jobs.
    • It renders them jobless so a feeling of ‘worthlessness’ and frustration arises.
  • Housing:
    • Lack of space:
      • Living with a large number of household members other than a spouse is associated with an increased risk of abuse, especially financial abuse.
    • Unsuitable accommodation:
      • The housing available to a majority of the senior citizens may be found inappropriate and unsuitable to their requirement.
  • Elderly Women Issues:
    •  They face life time of gender-based discrimination. The gendered nature of ageing is such that universally, women tend to live longer than men.
    • In the advanced age of 80 years and above, widowhood dominates the status of women with 71 per cent of women and only 29 per cent of men having lost their spouse.
    • Social mores inhibit women from re-marrying, resulting in an increased likelihood of women ending up alone.
    • The life of a widow is riddled with stringent moral codes, with integral rights relinquished and liberties circumvented.
    • Social bias often results in unjust allocation of resources, neglect, abuse, exploitation, gender-based violence, lack of access to basic services and prevention of ownership of assets.
    • Ageing women are more likely to get excluded from social security schemes due to lower literacy and awareness levels
  • Psychological Issues:
    • The common psychological problems that most of the senior citizens’ experiences are-
      • Feeling of powerlessness
      • Feeling of inferiority
      • Depression
      • Uselessness
      • Reduced competence

Digitization:

Digitization and increasing e-governance has posed problems on the elderly:

  • Digital Illiteracy:
    • With Digital India as one of the flagship programs of the government, most of the services from online payment of utility bills to pension to PDS to Banking to Insurance has gone digital. Digital illiteracy is a bane to the elderly who find it difficult to use the facilities.
  • Digital Divide:
    • It increases the “ever-widening generation gap” between the younger and older generations. This is seen in the form of accessibility, affordability to the digital devices and digi-world.
    • 4 per cent digitally illiterate respondents claimed that they consider themselves as marginalized and under- privileged lot of society in new settings, which is governed by modern IT and internet.
  • Poverty:
    • Instances in Jharkand where elderly couldn’t receive their PDS grains due to failure of Aadhar Verification because of missing finger-prints of senior citizens.
    • Almost 70% of women are part of the unconnected population in the country.
    • The gap between the haves and the have-nots is persistent and becoming increasingly problematic.
    • Recent natural disasters have shown that being disconnected has devastating consequences for the elderly and their families.
  • Trust Deficit and Fear:
    • Many older persons live in fear. It is doubled in case of using computer and digital devices due to perceived complications, cyber threats, loss of hard-earned money etc.
    • They feel that there is no reason to use the mobile Internet. This is a generation that has not grown with mobile technology and is usually averse to new technical skills.
  • Reducing personal ties:
    • A whopping 85 per cent rued lack of communication with younger members of their families, due to their “more demanding lifestyle and inability of older family members to understand the modern digital language of communication
    • A lot of older people feel, in the digital age, that they are not relevant or included.

Measures to improve quality of life of elder persons

Constitutional:
  • The Right to Equalityis guaranteed by the Constitution as a fundamental right while the social security is the concurrent responsibility of the Central and state government.
  • The government’s duties towards the senior citizens is provided under the articles in Part IV of the constitution, which corresponds to the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Though these provisions cannot be enforced by a court of law as per Article 37, they are the basis upon which any legislation is drafted.
  • Article 41of the Constitution secured the rights of the senior citizens to employment, education and public assistance. It says that the state must uphold the rights in cases of disability, old age or sickness.
  • Article 46states that the educational and economic rights of the senior citizens must be secured by the government.
  • Article 47asserts that the state must raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve the public health of the people.
Legislations:

National Policy for Senior Citizens, 2011:

  • The policy aims to Mainstream senior citizens’ concerns, especially older women, and bring them into the national development debate.
  • Promote income security, homecare services, old-age pension, health insurance schemes, housing and other programmes/services
  • Promote the care of senior citizens and consider institutional care as the last resort
  • Ensure inclusive, barrier-free and age-friendly society that recognises senior citizens’ rights and ensures their full participation
  • Distinguish senior citizens as the nation’s asset
  • Promote long-term savings instruments and credit activities for rural and urban areas

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Bill 2019

  • The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amends the 2007 Act which protects all senior citizens and parents including those who are neglected and are unable to support themselves.
  • The Bill expands the scope of the 2007 Act and adds certain provisions for their wellbeing and safety.
  • Definition of “children” has been expanded to include daughter-in-law and son-in-law. Even daughter-in-law and son-in-law of senior citizens would be responsible to take care of them.
  • Seeks to increase the jail term for negligent children, broaden responsibility beyond biological children and grandchildren and expand the definition of maintenance to include safety and security. This law will ultimately safeguard the rights of those elderly who have seen abuse and help them pursue legal action.
  • According to the Act, the state governments should set up Maintenance Tribunals to decide on the maintenance payable to senior citizens and parents.
  • These tribunals may order children and relatives to pay a monthly maintenance fee of up to Rs. 10,000 to parents and senior citizens.
  • It brings a much needed change to give senior citizens a life of dignity and respect by treating it as their right.
Government Schemes & Initiatives

Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana

  • The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PNVVY) was launched in May 2017 to provide social security during old age.
  • This is a simplified version of the VPBY and will be implemented by the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India.
  • Under the scheme, on payment of an initial lump sum amount ranging from Rs 1,50,000 for a minimum pension of Rs 1000 per month to a maximum of Rs 7,50,000/- for a maximum pension of Rs 5,000 per month, subscribers will get an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8% per annum payable monthly/quarterly/half-yearly/annually.
  • The Centre will bear 75 percent of the total budget and the state government will contribute 25 percent of the budget, for activities up to district level.

Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY)

  • This scheme is run by the Ministry of Finance. The Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY) was first launched in 2003 and then relaunched in 2014.
  • Both are social security schemes for senior citizens intended to give an assured minimum pension on a guaranteed minimum return on the subscription amount.

Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY)

  • This scheme is run by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • This is a central sector scheme funded from the Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund. The fund was notified in the year 2016. All unclaimed amounts from small savings accounts, PPF and EPF are to be transferred to this fund.
  • Under the RVY scheme, aids and assistive living devices are provided to senior citizens belonging to BPL category who suffer from age-related disabilities such as low vision, hearing impairment, loss of teeth and locomotor disabilities. The aids and assistive devices, viz walking sticks, elbow crutches, walkers/crutches, tripods/quad pods, hearing aids, wheelchairs, artificial dentures and spectacles are provided to eligible beneficiaries.
  • The scheme is being implemented by Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), which is a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Vayoshreshtha Samman

  • Conferred as a National award, and given to eminent senior citizens & institutions under various categories for their contributions on International day of older persons on 1st october.

Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS)

  • The Ministry of Rural Development runs the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) that extends social assistance for poor households for the aged, widows, disabled, and in cases of death where the breadwinner has passed away.
  • Under this scheme, financial assistance is provided to person of 60 years and above and belonging to family living below poverty line as per the criteria prescribed by Government of India.
  • Central assistance of Rs 200 per month is provided to person in the age group of 60-79 years and Rs 500 per month to persons of 80 years and above.

Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP)

  • Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is a nodal agency for the welfare of elderly people.
  • The main objective of the scheme is to improve the quality of life of older persons by providing basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and entertainment opportunities, etc.

SAMPANN Project:

  • It was launched in 2018. It is a seamless online pension processing and payment system for Department of Telecommunications pensioners.
  • It provides direct credit of pension into the bank accounts of pensioners.

SACRED Portal for Elderly:

  • The portal was developed by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Citizens above 60 years of age can register on the portal and find jobs and work opportunities.

Elder Line: Toll-Free Number for Elderly:

  • It provides information, guidance, emotional support – particularly on pension, medical and legal issues – besides immediate assistance in cases of abuse.
  • It is devised to provide all senior citizens, or their well-wishers, with ONE platform across the country to connect and share their concerns and get information and guidance on problems that they face on a day-to-day basis.

SAGE (Seniorcare Ageing Growth Engine) Initiative:

  • It is a “one-stop access” of elderly care products and services by credible start-ups.
  • It has been launched with a view to help such persons who are interested in entrepreneurship in the field of providing services for elderly care.

Issues with existing government mechanisms:

  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme has been paying Rs. 200 a month as old-age pension. A sum which has remained unchanged since 2006, when it was introduced.
  • Due to inflation the value of this has depreciated to under Rs. 100 over the past 11 years, less than a day’s notified minimum wage.
  • Union government passed a law in 2007 (the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act) to make maintenance of parents/senior citizens by children/relatives obligatory and justiciable through tribunals.
  • The Act also provides for revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence by relatives, penal provision for abandonment, etc.
  • But this Act has miserably failed to serve its purpose.
  • The Ministry of Social Justice, the nodal ministry for the elderly, also has a grand plan called the Integrated Programme for Older Persons, which has been operational since 1992.
  • But this is underfunded and languidly administered, the programme managed to reach just 23,095 beneficiaries in 2015-2016.
  • India spends only 1.45 per cent of its GDP on social protection, among the lowest in Asia, far lower than China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and even Nepal.
  • India has an immature pension industry and a mere 7.4 per cent of the total Indian population is covered under any form of pension plans, which is alarming.
  • Almost 85 per cent of Indian labour is still deployed in the informal sector, mostly as daily wage workers.
  • It is extremely difficult to cover informal sector employees under a national pension scheme.
  • People are also reluctant towards investing any part of their income over a large period of time.

Measures to be taken:

  • A minimum universal monthly pension of Rs. 2,000 for the elderly is quite doable for a $2 trillion economy like India.
  • Housing for the aged, particularly the aged poor, must be a priority and be made a subset of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
  • Assisted living facilities for indigent elderly, particularly those with age-related issues like dementia, needs policy focus.
  • Finance ministry can give more tax breaks, or at least removing tax on deposit interest for seniors.
  • Micro-pension is a personal retirement savings plan, in which People save a small part of their income individually during their working life that is invested collectively to generate periodical returns.
  • When people retire their accumulated capital is paid out in monthly amounts.
  • Such a scheme would balance between economic viability and generation of adequate returns for the participants
  • Government for its part can offer a degree of financial flexibility to the low-income communities for low or no minimum contribution requirements in order to encourage membership to such micro pension schemes.
  • In order to facilitate frequent deposits by the low- income groups, convenient door-to-door deposit collection can be organised by the government.
  • Enhancing the geriatric care health infrastructure especially in rural area.
  • Allocation of special budget for elderly population at both levels.
  • Providing entertainment facilities like libraries and clubs at panchayat level.
  • Appreciations for the contributions of elderlies at village level.

Way forward:

  • Collaboration between government and private sector
    • The needs and problems of the elderly vary according to their age, socio-economic status and other such characteristics. Healthy ageing is a complex issue. In order to address the elderly care effectively, collaboration between government and private sector is required.
    • The elderly should be seen as a blessing, not a burden. The elderly are becoming the fastest growing, but underutilized resource available to humanity. Rather than putting them aside, physically (and mentally), to be cared for separately, they should be integrated into the lives of communities where they can make a substantial contribution to improving social conditions. The benefits of turning the ‘problem’ of the elderly into a ‘solution’ for other social problems is being demonstrated in several countries.
  • Protection from Destitution:
    • The first step towards a dignified life for the elderly is to protect them from destitution and all the deprivations that may come with it.
    • Cash in the form of a pension can help to cope with many health issues and avoid loneliness as well.
    • That is why old-age pensions are a vital part of social security systems around the world.
  • Emulating the Frontrunners:
    • The southern States and India’s poorer States such as Odisha and Rajasthan have achieved near-universal social security pensions. Their actions are worth emulating.
    • It would be much easier for all States to do the same if the central government were to revamp the NSAP.
  • Focus on Revamping Pension Schemes:
    • Another critical area would be bringing reforms in the social security pensions.
    • They also need other support and facilities such as health care, disability aids, assistance with daily tasks, recreation opportunities and a good social life.
  • Transparent “Exclusion Criteria”:
    • A better approach is to consider all widows and elderly or disabled persons as eligible, subject to simple and transparent “exclusion criteria”.
    • Eligibility can even be self-declared, with the burden of time-bound verification being placed on the local administration or gram panchayat.
    • Although there are chances of privileged households taking the advantage, it is much preferable to accommodate some inclusion errors than to perpetuate the massive exclusion errors as is the case today.
Silver Economy

It is a system of producing, distributing, and consuming goods and services with the goal of utilizing the purchasing power of older and elderly people and meeting their consumption, living, and health needs.

Gerontechnology

Gerontechnology encompasses a wide range of technical systems and solutions designed to assist the elderly and/or their caregivers with basic daily tasks.


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