A call to address the neglect of the fastest growing demographic category
Senior citizens are undoubtedly the fastest growing population segment of our society. With the advancements in healthcare coupled with increasing longevity and reducing mortality rates, the proportion of senior citizens are growing by leaps and bounds. Their number stood at about 100 million, 8% of the overall population, in 2017, and grew to 10.5% in 2022. This trend of increasing proportion of elderly is likely to continue over decades, and would reach 20.8% in 2050 and 36% by the end of the century.
Yet, this alarming rate of rising elderly population, is not being reflected in the way the system responds to it. It has been quite a few years since a lay person has heard or seen any news in any of the media regarding any new welfare scheme being announced for the benefit of senior citizens. Neither is any old scheme being resurfaced for review, except for the recent news of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 being amended, which also did not happen.
India, which takes pride in being one of the fastest growing economies, should ideally reflect its economic growth through the social welfare and upliftment of all sections of the population, being a welfare state. However, the fact that the resources are not being utilised effectively for the welfare of the most significant segment of senior citizens is unfortunate.
The system and its functioning is youth-centric. The measures are targeted at them, as they are considered as economic assets. Meanwhile, the ageist perceptions which prevails around senior citizens being economically less productive is very depressing. This is being affixed to the overall perception of senior citizens as a burden to the state and its resources.
The major concern is about ensuring the financial well-being of the senior citizens. Despite the utmost need, nothing much has been highlighted regarding the economic welfare. In fact, certain measures targeted at their welfare have been overridden in the name of COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the issues include:
- Interest rates on the Fixed and Savings account of the senior citizens have been declining.
- Rail and air travel concessions that were previously available for senior citizens had been revoked, which needs to be brought back immediately.
- The increasing rate of inflation and higher expenses is creating dents on the limited budgets of senior citizens.
- There’s a noticeable shortage in the number of old age homes, and the conditions of those older persons who do not have any pension to rely on are very distressing.
Addressing these issues is essential to uphold the dignity and well-being of the senior citizens who have contributed significantly to our society.
Our country has always upheld a profound respect and consideration for its senior citizens. Within our homes, older parents are revered, and throughout our public spaces, from buses to trains, planes, banks, hospitals, and countless other facilities, they are accorded priority.
Senior citizens represent an invaluable segment of our country. They have dedicated their lives to our nation, contributing their economic services and resources as responsible citizens, fulfilling their social responsibilities and they deserve to be in the minds of our wise planners. Let us remember the importance of recognizing their immense contributions and ensuring their well-being as a fundamental duty for society and our government.
This article has been written by:
Mr. K. D. Bhatia,
84, member of Senior Citizens Society, Neb Sarai, New Delhi.