Caring for the elders: From family to State - Hindustan Times
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Caring for the elders: From family to State

Nov 08, 2023 10:37 PM IST

It’s crucial for society to recognise the contributions of senior citizens and work collectively to ensure their well-being and dignity in their golden years.

India is at a peculiar stage in its demographic transition. The country is characterised by a bulge in its youth population, which is a window of opportunity to accelerate growth. However, a parallel phenomenon that requires equal attention is the rising senior citizen population. According to Census 2011, the population of senior citizens was about 10.38 crores, or 8.6% of the total population.

Affordable and accessible technologies can help in enhancing the quality of life, safety, independence, and social engagement of senior citizens.(Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash) PREMIUM
Affordable and accessible technologies can help in enhancing the quality of life, safety, independence, and social engagement of senior citizens.(Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash)

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 gives effect to the provisions for their overall physical and mental well-being. The Atal Vayo Abhyuday Yojana (AVYAY) is an umbrella scheme that has the vision to create a society where senior citizens live a healthy, happy, empowered, dignified and self-reliant life along with strong social and intergenerational bonding.

Our culture places a strong emphasis on family values. Elders have been conventionally cared for by their children and grandchildren. However, changing lifestyles and migration for work have disrupted these familial support systems. As a result, senior citizens are, in instances, facing the problems of abandonment and abuse. According to the report by the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI), 77.3% senior citizens felt ill-treated in one way or the other. The government is emphasising the concept of “Ageing at Home”.

In order to make cities senior citizens and disabled friendly, the government is working in mission mode to achieve universal accessibility. This is linked to the ‘Accessible India Campaign’ (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan). Accessibility for senior citizens is not only a matter of convenience but a fundamental aspect of promoting their empowerment and dignity and enabling them to continue making valuable contributions to society.

Only 12% of the senior citizens in India are aware of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. To bridge the information gap, a national helpline (14567) has been set up to provide information about welfare schemes, to address grievances and other related matters. A participative ratings framework and standards to support the development of the private sector will help in providing the necessary market stewardship while ensuring the highest quality of service delivery in senior citizen homes. To promote innovation in products and processes for the benefit of the elders, Seniorcare Ageing Growth Engine (SAGE) has been launched to provide one-time equity support to startups that develop business ideas based on the needs of senior citizens. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to think about the problems of senior citizens and come up with innovative out-of-the-box solutions.

There is low awareness about geriatric care and a low focus towards curative care in dealing with chronic illnesses and multi-morbidity conditions experienced by senior citizens. Among older adults, 62% have received care from a private health facility which increases their out-of-pocket expenditure. The Ayushman Bharat initiative recognises the growing need for palliative and rehabilitative care for all geriatric illnesses and advocates the continuity of care across all levels.

There is a target of one lakh quality trained care providers in the next three years to address the geriatric care workforce shortage, with training modules prepared in consultation with the Healthcare Sector Skill Council and the Domestic Workers Sector Council. There is also a focus on the mental health of senior citizens within existing health services.

Affordable and accessible technologies can help in enhancing the quality of life, safety, independence, and social engagement of senior citizens. From telemedicine to digital financing, online courses for continuous education and digital training for becoming market-ready, all of these will help mitigate problems for senior citizens while empowering them to lead a dignified life.

According to the LASI report 2020, more than 50% of older citizens are determined to be active. Businesses searching for experienced and stable staff can leverage the experience, time, and efforts of these senior citizens. Opportunities for participation in labour activities, access to social protection, and security in old age, as well as a positive workplace environment, are keys to achieving a productive ageing society. It’s crucial for society to recognise the contributions of its senior citizens and work collectively to ensure their well-being and dignity in their golden years.

Saurabh Garg is secretary, department of social justice and empowerment. The views expressed are personal

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