Elderly population in India – Explained, pointwise


India is at a peculiar stage in its demographic transition. India is characterized by a bulge in its youth population, which can be a window of opportunity to accelerate growth. However, a parallelly occurring phenomenon that requires equal attention with regard to India’s economic growth trajectory is rapid aging, i.e., rising elderly population.

According to the World Health Organization, India’s elderly population will rise from its current 60 million to over 227 million by 2050. Accordingly, the old-age dependency ratio will rise from 9.8 to 20.3. An increase in our elderly population and rising pressure on pension systems can offset many of the government efforts.

Increasing elderly population around the world

Countries all around the world are experiencing an increase in the proportion of their elderly population because of falling fertility rates and rising life expectancy.

By the United Nations’ population projections, the headcount of people aged 65 and above, which constituted 703 million people in 2019, will double to 1.5 billion in 2050, thus accounting for 16% of the world population.

But developing countries like India are experiencing aging at a faster pace.

The elderly population in India

The Quality of Life for Elderly Index mentions some interesting information about the elderly population in India. Its key findings are,

  • India is currently enjoying the demographic dividend. But the age group above the age of 65 will become the fastest-growing age group by 2050.
  • The share of elders, as a percentage of the total population in the country, is expected to increase from around 7.5% in 2001 to almost 12.5% by 2026, and surpass 19.5% by 2050.

Similarly, According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s (MOSPI) “Elderly in India 2021” report mention that the old-age dependency ratio is increasing in India at high level. The report mentions,

Elderly in India 2021

  • The old-age dependency ratio provides a clearer picture of the number of persons aged 60-plus per 100 persons in the age group of 15-59 years.
  • According to the report, an increasing trend has been observed in the old-age dependency ratio. It has risen from 10.9% in 1961 to 14.2% in 2011 and is further projected to increase to 15.7% and 20.1% in 2021 and 2031 respectively.
  • The projected dependency ratio for females and males is 14.8% and 16.7% respectively in 2021.
Government schemes and initiatives towards the betterment of the elderly population

In 2011, the government introduced a National Policy for Older Persons. The key objectives of the policy are,

  • To encourage individuals to make provisions for their own and their spouse during old age
  • To encourage families to take care of their older family members
  • To bring non-governmental organizations for caring for older persons
  • To provide healthcare facilities to the elderly
  • To create awareness regarding elderly persons and to develop them into fully independent citizens

Apart from that, the government introduced other measures, such as,

Read more: Kerala’s “Bell of Faith Scheme” for elderly
Need to protect the elderly population
  1. Elderly peoples carry an immense experience of their personal and professional life, society at large needs to channelise those experiences for a better tomorrow.
  2. They can provide a vital generational link for the upcoming generation, such as providing support and stability to families and society at large.
  3. Grandparents in joint families provide a crucial link for transferring values and morals to the younger generation. Thereby contributing towards bringing up better human beings and responsible citizens.
  4. Acknowledging seniors’ contributions would help to make ours a more age-inclusive society that does not pit one generation against the other.
  5. Their deep cultural impressions and social experiences provide the necessary buffer against intolerance, violence and hate crimes.
Challenges faced by the elderly population in India
Social Challenges

Senior citizens are increasingly being neglected by the younger generation due to various reasons like western education, globalisation, nuclear family structure, etc

Financial challenges
  • Low funding: India spends only 1% of its gross domestic product on pensions. India’s income support systems in their current form are not even capable of catering to the elderly when their proportion of the population is only 8.6%.
  • Mitigating the fiscal costs: The Indian economy still needs to mitigate the fiscal costs that arise from a rising old-age dependency ratio.
Health-related challenges
  • Increased health-related expenses and the high prevalence of Non-Communicable diseases also create a financial problem for the elderly population.
  • Further, other health-related issues like blindness, deafness, mental illness, etc. are highly prevalent among the elderly population
Suggestions to improve benefits to the elderly people
  1. The need of the hour is to strengthen our pension systems through better funding and coverage. For that, the government has to allocate a special budget for the elderly population.
    • The government has to increase the monthly pension to a minimum of Rs.5,000 per month. Any amount below this is of no use, given the rising inflation.
  2. The first step to mitigating fiscal cost is by changing the negative connotation attached to old age. Promoting behavioral change can be done through education, public awareness, and innovative measures such as Switzerland’s time bank.
    • About Switzerland’s time bank: Under this initiative, the younger generation will start to save ‘time’ by taking care of senior citizens. Later, they will use the saved ‘time’ when they get old, sick, or in need of someone to take care of them.
  3. As the elderly population is going to increase in the future, India should raise the retirement age in the future, albeit in a phased manner so as not to jeopardize opportunities for younger generations.
    • However, it is not possible to extend the working age, if the country does not have a pool of healthy elderly people. So, the youth of today must have adequate access to social goods and employment opportunities.
  4. The government must make sure that there are sufficient old age home facilities.
  5. The local government can provide entertainment facilities like libraries and clubs at the grass-root level.
  6. The Government also has to proactively work on lifestyle modification, non-communicable disease management, vision and hearing problem management, and accessible health care.

Source: Livemint

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