Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Ageing Population

Ageing Population

  • Population ageing has emerged as the grand challenge of this century; for policymakers, care providers and society as a whole.

  • India has joined the rank of Greying nations with over seven per cent of its population in the 60-plus years segment. A United Nations report has predicted that India will have 198 million Old ‘(60 + ) people in 2030 and 326 million in 2050. Currently, there could be around 100 million senior citizens’ in India. The problems

  • Studies have shown that elderly people in India suffer a double-whammy effect; the combined burden of both communicable (usually infectious) and non-communicable (usually chronic and lifestyle related) diseases. This is compounded by an impairment of special sensory functions like vision and hearing that decline with advancing age.

  • It is also clear that disability and frailty accompany aging, especially after the seventh decade.

No safety net

  • The absence of a safety net for the elderly has exacerbated the problem. Traditionally, the joint family in India took care of its elderly. These traditional care arrangements have been lost in the context of rapid urbanisation and an exodus of people from rural to urban areas and from urban areas to foreign countries.

  • In the absence of such community support in the form of kinsmen or the extended family, and an inability to continue to earn their living, the elderly are often rendered destitute, if not financially, from a pragmatic perspective.

  • Insurance cover that is elder-sensitive is virtually non-existent.

  • These problems demand and necessitate an urgent response from our policy makers.

  • The Government India, supported actively by civil society, unveiled its National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) over 50 years after Independence. It proposed a role for the State in the elder care: Health, shelter, financial security and protection against abuse. It recognised the need for affirmative action favouring the elderly.

  • Unfortunately, a decade later, the NPOP awaits complete implementation in all States and Union Territories of India, much of its promise remaining unfulfilled, prompting the Government of India to seek its revision to suit contemporary needs.

  • Discussions among civil society groups and concerned senior citizens in the run up to a re-organised NPOP, reveal many consensus points for the future organisation of elder health care. There is little doubt that the care of the elder must remain vested within the family unit and based within the community the elder resides in. Incentives for families that care for their elders are necessary; as are the development of community healthcare resources; doctors, nurses and paramedics specialised in elder health care; and rehabilitation facilities for those with disability.

  • Providing health care that passes the Five A'Test (Availability, Affordability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Accountability) to such a large vulnerable group, is a challenge that has to be confronted. Insurance cover that is elder-sensitive is virtually non-existent.

  • There is need for sensitivity and sensibility in making these plans. The elder citizen is a national treasure; one who has contributed to both national growth and familial development. As they approach the autumn of their lives, they experience diminishing ability to generate income, increasing vulnerability to illness and disability, and increasing dependency on their families and communities. Rather than view this dependence as a burden to be endured, we must as a society embrace it whole-heartedly, as a pay back opportunity; to thank senior citizens for their many unconditional contributions. The organisation and delivery of elder health care must therefore be approached with enthusiasm, altruism and generosity.

  • Mature health policy for the elder combined with a generous dose of pragmatism in organising, delivering and funding health care services is the need of the hour.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India