Taking Care of Senior Citizens

By Vidya Bhushan Arora
Deputy Director (M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi
(With inputs from the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and UN Websites)

New Delhi, Sept 29, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio USA / PIB India) We are living in an ageing world. Over the past few years, the world’s population has witnessed a growth in the number and proportion of older persons. According to a UN paper, such a rapid, large and ubiquitous growth has never been seen in the history of civilization. The World Health Orgnization (WHO) has projected that world-wide, there are around 600 million persons aged 60 years and over; this total will double by 2025 and will reach virtually two billion by 2050 - the vast majority of them in the developing world.

According to the Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat, the current demographic revolution is predicted to continue well into the coming centuries. Its major features are: one out of every ten persons is now 60 years or above; by 2050, one out of five will be 60 years or older; and by 2150, one out of three persons will be 60 years or older. Similarly, the older population itself is ageing. The oldest old (80 years or older) is the fastest growing segment of the older population. They currently make up 13 percent of the 60+ age group and will grow to 20 percent by 2050. The number of centenarians (aged 100 years or older) is projected to increase 14-fold from approximately 265,000 in 2005 to 3.7 million by 2050.

This kind of demographic situation calls for fresh thinking at policy level to enable the societies to equip themselves for this changing scenario where not only taking care of senior citizens will be important but in addition emphasis should be on devising the ways in which the potential of senior citizens will be fully utilized. Perhaps the time has come when it has become utmost necessary to change our mindset about the older persons and also change our notions about their perceived ‘limitations’. The societies must learn to take advantage of the experience and dormant abilities of older persons and also make necessary infrastructural and other changes required to meet this new challenge.

As the ‘Policy Considerations’ segment of the UN document ‘Implications of An Ageing Society’ notes, “Recognition of the uniqueness that unfolds throughout one’s life is core to igniting society’s embrace of the contributions of its older citizens. The package of knowledge, wisdom and experience that so often comes with age is part of an inner awareness that cannot be traded, sold or stolen. It should, however, be activated, amplified and utilized in all the crossroads, fields and storefronts of society, and in the windows of our creative imaginations.”

1st October is observed as the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) every year throughout the world. The United Nations has set some objectives for the U.N. International Day of Older Persons 2010 which include addressing the current state of the Global Ageing Agenda and Strategies at the United Nations, review of the Millennium Development Goals in context of ageing and identifying innovative initiatives which are advancing the Global agenda on Ageing. It also emphasizes the need for anchoring ageing further into the UN activities.

Population of Senior Citizens in India

The elderly population of our country is steadily on the rise and is projected to grow at a faster pace than the population in general. The population of senior citizens is projected to rise to nearly 10 crore by 2011, 12 crore by 2016, 14 crore by 2021 and over 17 crore by 2026.

As per 2001 Census, total population of Senior Citizens (60+) was 7.7 crore, of which population of males and females was 3.8 crore and 3.9 crore respectively. Senior Citizens constituted 7.5% of the total population. Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have more than the national average (7.5%) of Senior Citizens population.

In 1991, about 6.8% of the total population was aged 60 years and above. The figure is projected to go up to 12.4% in 2026. General improvement in the health care facilities over the years is one of the main reasons for continuing increase in proportion of population of senior citizens in India. Ensuring that they not merely live longer, but lead a secure, dignified and productive life is a major challenge. Some main problems of senior citizens on which there is a constant need to take care include security, health care and need for care and maintenance.

National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) 1999 Under Revision

The first National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) was announced in January, 1999 by the Government of India to reaffirm the commitment to ensure the well-being of the older persons. The Policy envisages State support to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons, equitable share in development, protection against abuse and exploitation, and availability of services to improve the quality of their lives.

Ten years have passed since the announcement of the Policy. Keeping in view the changing demography of the senior citizens in the country, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment constituted a Committee in January 2010 to assess the present status of various issues concerning senior citizens, in general, and implementation of National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP), 1999 in particular. The Committee is working on a draft for a new National Policy on Older Persons.  The Review Committee has so far held five meetings and five regional meetings at Chandigarh, Chennai, Mumbai, Guwahati and Bhubaneswar. The Review Committee is expected to submit its recommendation by the end of December 2010.

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was enacted in December 2007 to ensure need based maintenance for parents and senior citizens and their welfare. The Act, amongst other things, provides for maintenance of parents/ senior citizens by children/ relatives made obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals, revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence by relatives, penal provision for abandonment of senior citizens and protection of Life and Property of senior citizens etc.

The Act comes into force in a State upon notification by the individual State/ UT Government. At present, the Act had been notified by 22 States and all UTs. The States which had notified the Act are also required to take further measures for effective implementation of the various provisions of the Act. These measures include framing of rules, appointing Maintenance Officer and constituting Maintenance and Appellate Tribunals etc.

So far, nine States namely, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal have taken all the necessary steps as mentioned above. Remaining States/ UTs are constantly being reminded by the Centre to take necessary action in this regard at the earliest.

Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP)

The Ministry has been implementing a Central Sector Scheme “Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP)” since 1992. The Scheme aims at improving the quality of life of senior citizens by catering to their basic needs, particularly shelter, food and health care to the destitute elderly. Under the Scheme, financial assistance up to 90% of the project cost is provided to non-governmental organizations for running and maintenance of old age homes, day care centres, mobile medicare units, etc. During the year 2009-10, 360 NGOs were supported under the Scheme to run 345 Old Age Homes, 184 Day Care Centres and 27 Mobile Medical Units. On an average, about 35,000 beneficiaries are being covered every year under the Scheme. (PIB Features)