As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderly

Source: The post is based on an article As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderlypublished in The Hindu on 1st October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated Issues

News: 1st October is celebrated as International Day for Older Persons by the United Nations.

World Population Prospects 2022 report published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) has projected big shifts in global demographic patterns in the coming decades.

What are the findings of the report?

Globally: The report says that 16% of the world population by 2050 is expected to be made up of people over 65 years. It also says that the global population will be 9.7 billion people by 2050.

India: The report projects India’s population to be 1.7 billion by 2050.  India will be home to the largest population in the world which would include a large elderly sub-population.  This demographic change will have a great impact on its health systems.

Previous United Nations reports have projected that the proportion of India’s elderly population will double to nearly 20% of the total population by 2050.

This change in demographic structure will increase the pressure on public health systems. The prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease will be higher among the elderly.

Therefore, eye care service delivery is placed to be the first point-of-contact with the elderly and to also help with health surveillance and planning.

What are the findings of Hyderabad Ocular Morbidity in the Elderly Study (HOMES)?

HOMES is an eye institute that produces a series of systematic reports on various aspects of health, quality of life, mental health, etc.

The study has used eye care as a point of entry to measure a variety of health and social metrics in 1000 participants. The findings of the reports are –

Over 30% of the elderly had distance vision loss and over 50% had near vision impairment and they needed reading glasses.

Nearly half the participants had at least one disability and a third of them had multiple morbidities.

About 70% of them were using at least one assistive device and spectacles were the most common.

The study also explored many links between vision impairment and an elderly person’s mental health and confidence. People with impaired vision had a greater fear, and risk, of falling.

Therefore, addressing the vision impairment of elders is important to improve their lives.

What should be the course of action for improvement in the conditions of elderly?

To address vision loss, a package of interventions including assistive devices for sight, hearing, and mobility can be introduced.

Therefore, the Indian eye care model has always prioritized primary care vision centers that bring care closer to those in need.

The future of elderly care needs to be long term, comprehensive, and integrated, and oriented towards making primary care accessible.

Proper accessibility will ensure that no elderly person is denied care irrespective of their financial status.

A comprehensive eye examination can be the first step towards enabling such a healthy and happy future for our elderly citizens.

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