CHENNAI: Isolation, fear, boredom and insecurity — these are some of the issues that senior citizens face besides health and abandonment. Sixteen years after the introduction of the National Policy for Older Persons, senior citizen groups still believe that a lot more has to be done on the implementation side. With the current levels of life expectancy, the projected elderly population by 2050 is over 18 per cent — almost one-in-six.
While there are many policies to benefit the elderly, the implementation has to improve, said Md Shakeel Akther, IPS, Additional Director General of Police, inaugurating ‘Elder Justice Initiative’, a meeting organised by the Department of Criminology, University of Madras. The meeting brought together stakeholders — government, police representatives, NGOs and senior citizen groups — to look at the social, medical and psychological aspects of elder care. Shakeel urged the stakeholders to come together in this issue. “Poverty is an important issue to deal with, but this does not affect every senior citizen. What affects a majority of senior citizens are the issues of abuse, isolation and neglect,” said Edwin Babu, joint director — Programmes, HelpAge India, Chennai.
Classification, he said, need not be done just by age but also according to categories — active, assisted, and dependant. With a large portion of elders being in the unorganised workforce, there is the issue of social security, with most not receiving pension and benefits. The assumption that persons in the rural areas are healthier is a myth. Statistics discussed at the meeting revealed that 45 per cent of elders from rural areas suffered from chronic diseases. Though there is a huge percentage of elders in villages, geriatric care facilities are all in urban areas, said Dr V S Natarajan, who pioneered geriatric medicine in India.
Ailments affecting the elderly
Cardiovascular diseases- 22%
Mental health- 14%
Pulmonary diseases- 14%
Source_ HelpAge India
With reducing manpower in government sector, NGOs have a big role to help the situation, said Dr G S Shanthi from the Department of Geriatric Medicine, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Chennai.