As per UNDESA, by 2010-15, life expectancy in India (67.5 years) had almost caught up with the global average of 70.5 years.
As a result of the increase in life expectancy, the number of elderly people in India is expected to rise to 300 million (~20% of total population) by 2050.
The increase in life expectancy has led to newer challenges in the community
Provisions of pensions and other healthcare facilities for the elderly citizens are pressuring budgets, while there are increasing demands of employment to the youth. For instance, despite the presence of pension schemes at centre and state level, a mere pittance as low as ₹350 to ₹400 a month is provided in some states which too is not universal.
The biggest challenge is to provide a range of quality, affordable, and accessible health and care services to the elderly.
The vicious cycle of poor health and unaffordable health costs is further accelerated by their inability to earn a livelihood (adds to their mental and emotional problems.).
Increasing Pollution in Urban Areas is further making them vulnerable to diseases and infections. Ex: Elderly population suffering air pollution in Delhi.
Elderly people are facing social eliminations even from their own families with the rise in nuclear families. They are seen as liabilities.
They are exposed to new events of disasters and hence are more vulnerable. Ex: Senior citizens trapped in houses during Chennai Urban Floods.
Steps to be taken to reduce the vulnerabilities faced by the elderly
Change in Perspective: While one perspective looks at them as dependents, a rather different view would look at them as a potential asset: a massive resource of experienced, knowledgeable people.
Concept of Active Ageing: The process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. It also reduces the pressure on health care systems.
Promoting Silver Economy: Silver economy is the system of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services aimed at using the purchasing potential of older and ageing people and satisfying their consumption, living and health needs.
Digitisation of Healthcare and Specialised Geriatric Health Care: hey require an array of specialised medical services at home including tele or home consultations, physiotherapy and rehabilitation services, mental health counselling and treatment, as well as pharmaceutical and diagnostic services.
Reskilling of Elderly: Ensuring proper technology, human resource and other facilities for reskilling the elderly population at a large scale.
India must follow “Health Related ‘Elderly-First’ Approach” which prioritizes elderly, their access and affordability as prime factors in designing and operating health care systems around the world.