Gerontology is a study of the social, psychological, cultural, cognitive and biological characteristic of ageing. While geriatric deals with the care of the elderly, gerontology is the study of the ageing process. India is an agricultural-based economy with a population of 1.22 billion people. Its 106 million elderly population depend on their children and family for financial, emotional and caregiving support. Several national agencies, non-governmental organizations and state agencies offer housing, daycare and health care services.
Governments Initiative towards the Senior Citizens
Over the years, the government has introduced several schemes with the purpose of providing health care and freedom of the elderly around the country. Year 19999 was observed as the international year for elders by the United Nations general assembly.
The National Policy for Senior Citizens 2011 is based on several factors, namely the demographic explosion amongst the elderly, fluctuations in the economy and social environment, progression in health research, science and technology and high levels of destitution amongst the elderly living in rural areas. Social dispossessions, privatization of health services and changing pattern of illness affect the elderly.
Here are some of the major highlights of the policy:
- Special attention is given to the elderly woman to prevent them from being a victim of gender, age and widowhood
- Crossing 60 as a phase of prospect, creativity and choices and no dependence
- Age-integrated culture to reinforce the intergenerational bond
- underline the need for growth of the community and civic services for senior citizens, especially women.
Lack of Infrastructure
Elders need access to better health facilities, like affordable medicines, better infrastructure, treatments and nutritious food to maintain good health. Geriatric facilities should be easily accessible to elders all over the country; however, geriatric in the public health sector is limited. This lack could be due to limited resources, manpower, poor quality of care and services and lack of focus towards the elderly needs and cause.
Income security in old age is one of the major interventions required as more than two-thirds of the elderly live below the poverty line. Initially, medicinal research on elder morbidity was hospital-based but in 1997, the publication of “Indian Journal of Medical Research” concentrated on the occurrence of chronic conditions and their supervision, including hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, disabilities etc.
Promoting Positive Ageing
Positive ageing refers to holistic individual, community and society as a whole to change its view on the problem of ageing. Highlighting the ageing policies and practices is an important issue for people of all ages and sectors of society.
WHO defines ‘Active Ageing’ as the “process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people age? It applies to both individuals and population groups. Active ageing encourages the involvement of older adults in society and highlights the capability and knowledge that older people own.”
Robert Butler, MD, the visionary pioneer in gerontology introduced the concept of ‘Productive Ageing”. He said that “healthy ageing is about optimizing opportunities for good health so that older people can take an active part in society and enjoy an independent and high quality of life.”
Eldercare management is difficult for working adult children as they find it hard to balance work and care for their elder parents. The ageing population in the country is a big challenge, both medically and sociologically. Care for the elderly is fast emerging as a critical element of both the public and private concern. The aged needs care in a variety of setting; home, nursing homes, geriatric centers, intensive care units depending on the nature of the medical condition.
High mortality rate and population ageing is reflected as an accomplishment of public health policy and socio-economic progress. However, it is important to plan an all-inclusive public health response to cater the needs of the elderly.
Planning for the elderly is a challenging task, due to the complexity, varied differences and inter-individual disparities. Issues like increase in pension, income security, economic stability and better health systems are some of the challenges faced by the policymakers while providing care for the geriatric population. Implementation of these policies, evaluations and outcomes is also an important part of the process so as to reap maximum benefits.
Our country is not well informed toward the need for all-inclusive geriatric care which otherwise will get observed in the multitudes of the problem our country is facing. Vigorous advocacy and campaigning are necessary to promote the legislature, conduct research, inspire public policy, and create awareness on a variety of issues that concern the elders and caregivers.
“Age is only a number. Keep an active life” ― Lailah Gifty Akita