Ageing is a universal biological fact and a natural process. It begins from the day we are born, or perhaps even before. The perception of age, however , is socially constructed. Isolation, exclusion and marginalization of older persons are the consequences of age discrimination. It undermines their concerns systematically into the overall developmental agenda.
Ageing in India: Some reflections
The aged population in India is currently the second largest in the world. In modern times, for all practical purpose the individuals who are above sixty years of old are considered to be aged or senior citizens of the state. In academic research, retirement age is often taken as an index of aged status. Chronological age of fifty eight or sixty is considered the beginning of old age. However, existence of mass poverty, growing trends towards nuclear family, greater life expectancy and deterioration of cultural values and norms are engendering stumbling blocks on the part of the aged to cope with the changing environment (Bhatia 1983). As a result the aged population in India is accompanied by a series of problem in their day to day life. The major areas of problem faced by the aged individuals are; income generation, health, use of free time, social participation, dignity and respect and so on. These problems are because of the following reasons namely, geographical and cultural differences, redtapism and disproportionate socio-economic facilities to urban and rural areas in terms of education, sanitation, health and housing. As a result the Government of India has undertaken some legislative and policy measures for the welfare of the aged.
As per census 2001, the number of older persons was 70.6 million which was projected to be 83.5 million in 2006. As per the projections the percentage of older persons will be 94.8 million in 2011,118 million in 2016, 143.7 million in 2021 and 173.1 million in 2026 The growth of population of the older persons shows upward trend.
The gender position of the elderly reveals that the life expectancy of women is expected to remain higher. For the period 2006-2010 the life expectancy of female is 68.1 against 65.8 of males which will rise to 72.3 for female against 69.02 for males during the period 2011-2016. This indicates that the population of elderly women will account for a larger chunk compared to their male counterpart in 60+ age bracket.
In absolute terms the projection for male population in 60+age group was 35 million in 2001 projected to be 40.7 million in 2006 and 48 million in 2011 as against the female population in the same age group was 36 million in 2001. 42 million in 2006 and 50.2 million in 2011. From the projected figures for the year 2006-2011 and 2026, it is also clear that percentage of female population in 70+age group will outnumber their male counterpart in the same age group. This accounts for a larger female population in the overall 60+age group compared to the male population in the years to come . Many of women in the 70+ age group would be either widow or single without any ostensible support for themselves.
A comparison of rural elderly and the urban establishes the fact that around 74.97 percent of older persons live in rural areas and 25.02 in urban area. This involves planning for post- retirement socio-economic security through continued skill up gradation, employment and participation in other creative and gainful activities.
With the changing lifestyle of modern society the young generation are migrating from not only rural to urban area rather one country to another as well leading to increase in old age dependency ratio. The old age dependency ratio (number of old persons 60+years) to the working age group (15-59 years)has increased from 9.8 percent in 1981 to about 12.6 percent by the year 2001.(CENSUS of India,2001)
Existing programmes on ageing
Much progress has been made in the quality and quantity of the service to the aged in India in the last five decades. However, improvements have been uneven in the urban areas that avail the best advantage of modern advanced technological package in the contrast to the rural one. While much of the emphasis has been given to care for women and child the government has played a least role in the case of the aged except formulating certain legislative and policy measures pertaining to the welfare of the aged population of India.
The welfare of the aged has been enshrined in the constitution of India. The item 9 of the state list and items 20,23, and 24 of the concurrent list speak of the provision of old age pension, social security, social insurance, economic and social planning and relief to the disabled and the unemployed. The Article 41 of the Directive Principles of state policy express the state shall make effective provision for securing the right to work, to public assistance in case of unemployment, old age, sickness and durableness and in other cases undeserved wants, within its limits of economic development and capacity”. Fundamental Right Article 16 (2) emphasizes on equal opportunity in matters of public employment. Article 47 of the Indian constitution points out to the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and improvement of public health.
Coming to the category of legislative measure, the retirement benefits (GPF&PPF) are provided to those who served the government and the public undertakings.
The Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act,1952 (amended in 1996) provide for economic security to persons or their families in the event of retirement or even death before retirement.
The National Social Assistance Programme came into existence on 15 august 1995 and one of its programmes is the National Old Age Pension Scheme that is implemented through the Panchayats and Municipalities. Presently all state Government and union territories are implementing the old age pension scheme under the state sector
National Policy On Older Persons
Government of India announced the National Policy on older persons in 1999 to reaffirm its commitment to ensure the well-being of the older persons in a holistic manner.
Financial Security through coverage under old age pension scheme for poor and destitute older persons, better returns on earnings of government /quasi-government employees, saving in Provident fund, etc creating opportunities for continued education/skill up-gradation ensuring thereby continued employment /self employment , and employees of the non-formal and governmental sector.
Health Security: The NPOP recognizes special needs of the older persons to be met through strengthening and reorienting the public health services at primary health care level, creation of health facilities through non-profit organizations like trust/charity, etc., and implementing health insurance.
Recognizing shelter as basic human need: The NPOP provides for earmarking 10 percent of the houses/housing sites in urban as well as rural areas for older persons belonging to the lower income groups, special considerations to the older persons falling in the category of below poverty line and destitute in housing scheme like Indira Awas Yojana, loans at reasonable interest rates and easy repayment installments with tax relief for purchase of houses, etc.
Protection of life and property of older persons: The state has to gear up security network to save older persons from criminal offences and police is required to keep friendly vigil. Early settlement of property /inheritance disputes is to be done, safeguards to protect them from frauduent dealings in transfer of property through sale/will are to be put in place and free legal aid and toll free helpline services are to be placed across the country.
Training of Human Resource to care for older persons: The policy lays emphasis on need for trained personnel/care givers. This envisages the training of human resources in the areas like specialization in geriatrics in medical courses, special courses on geriatric care in nursing training, training of social workers specially for geriatric care and professional caregivers.
The Media: The policy enjoins upon media to take up a special responsibility for the care of older persons. Media is to play a role in identifying emerging issues and areas of action dispelling stereo types and negative images about the old age, maintaining restraint from creating fear psychosis by responsible reporting intergenerational bonds and informing individual groups with appropriate information on ageing process.
Available Support Services
National social assistance programme
The NSAP came into effect from 15 august 1995. NSAP is a Social Assistance Programme for the poor households and represents a significant step towards the fulfillment of the Directive Principles enshrined in Article 41 and 42 of the Constitution of India recognizing concurrent responsibility of the central and state government in the manner.
The National Old Age Pension Scheme: The scheme covers older persons /destitute having little or no regular means of subsistence from his /her own sources of income or through financial support from family members or other sources.
Concessions / Tax rebate / Other incentives: Presently persons of 60 years of age are entitled for 30% concessions in train fare in all classes. There are different airlines providing 45% to 50% concession in air journey to senior citizens.
Older persons who are above65 years of age also enjoy income tax rebate up to Rs 15,000 of actual tax with provision for deduction of Rs. 20,000 spent on account of medical insurance premium and Rs 40,000 spent on account of medical treatment from taxable income. The government has launched a Reverse Mortgage System for senior citizens to extract value out of their property and lead a hassle-free life by securing a regular income as loan against their existing property.
Integrated Programmes For Older Persons
Under the scheme financial assistance is provided to Non-Governmental Organizations, Autonomous Bodies, Educational Institutions, Cooperative Societies, etc. up to 90 percent of the project cost for setting up and maintenance of Day Care Centers, Mobile Medicare Units, Old age Homes and Non-institutional Service Centers.
Realizing the real situation wherein the older persons live Para 36 of the National Policy envisages covering of health insurance and financial security towards essential medical care and affordable treatment process. Many of the government and public hospitals have started memory clinics, mental health programmes to facilitate proper diagnosis of Dementia to enable slowing down the process and preparing the care givers and the family to manage Alzheimer's and Dementia Care.
Training and Human Resources Development for Home Care
In the changing family context role of professionally trained home cares become very crucial. Therefore preparing a frontline cadre of care givers to ensure quality care at home as well as in the institutions is one of the important strategies. Ministry of Social Justice &Empowerment launched the project “NICE’ through National Institute of social defence an autonomus body of the ministry of social justice and empowerment in 2000.The NISD organizes one year P.G. Diploma course and six month certificate courses under the project NICE to meet the demand for care givers.
Voluntary Bureau of Elderly
Volunteers Bureau of elderly is a network of elderly who could be available for different kinds of services on demand. The International Longevity Centre, Pune and NGO working for welfare of elderly has successfully used this concept over the years for gainful post retirement.
Bridging the intergenerational gap is another innovative project which has been pilot tested by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment. The programme would be carried out for school children by creating awareness and sensitizing them on issue.
Initiatives by other organizations
There are a number of specialized NGOs coming up to join hands with the efforts of the government towards creating an elderly friendly environment in the country. One of the major initiatives in the state of Gujrat has got 63 Self Help Group formed consisting of an overall 1000 elderly women. Servants of People Society at Chandigarh a national NGO is working for the cause of elderly and stress upon the value systems of our tradition.
The emergence and the persistence of the issue of ‘AGEING’ in Indian society comprise a series of factors. In brief the major antecedent to the issue of ageing is the changing aspects of Indian social structures which includes family pattern, adoption of individualistic values by youth, migration etc. From a sociological point of view, ageing, a social process, is not an offshoot of the mere biological aspect rather a byproduct of larger socio-cultural milieu. In this context agency seldom works whereas structure drives every agency in its own way. Thus it is indispensible that the policy intervention should take notice of the socio-economic conditions of the aged individuals. Hence the liberation of ageism does not merely imply a collaborative efforts undertaken by the public and private institutions along with the involvement of NGOs and community at large but it also depends on the freedom from the shackles of 'INDIVIDUALISM’ and the ‘SELF’ which will retrieve cognitive tradition of Indian civilization
Mrs. Rashmi Jain
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