Promoting the silver economy

On International Day for Older Persons, we must discuss the possibilities of making the older population economically and socio-politically robust

Published: 01st October 2021 06:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st October 2021 06:54 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: The Intern, a 2015 Hollywood blockbuster, is not just a movie about the dilemma of a young entrepreneur who has to choose between the company she was promoting and her family. There is an unmistakable sub-plot revolving around Ben Whitaker – played by Robert De Niro – who feels compelled to seek a third career in his seventies.

Silver age — as this segment is often referred to — is indeed a climbdown from the golden age, the prime of a person. So, the emerging trends call for an urgent need to create an environment that handholds the older adults to stay active and thus relevant. UN Population Division estimates that by 2050, over 19% of India’s population would be ‘aged.’ In absolute numbers, this is 31 crores (as per the 2011 Census). The fact that the current population of the United States is 33 crores should be indicative enough.

Longevity is double-edged
Globally, the average life expectancy at birth for males and females was 45.5 and 48.5 respectively in 1950. It has steadily improved to 68.5 and 73.3 in 2015, with India being no exception. Two-thirds of this segment live in developing countries. Ageing, together with falling fertility rates, has profoundly impacted areas of resources, healthcare and insurance. Similar effects can be observed in the familial, psycho-social and life satisfaction indices. As a result, society, in general, will be forced to abandon some of the conventions and accept a few others as the new normal.

In developing countries, the extended lifespan of people beyond 65 years strains the conventional family support system – which is transforming. The diminished family structure often develops cracks in its financial planning with an additional cost centre for eldercare emerging. On the healthcare side, increasing utilisation and consumption of medical facilities, products and supportive devices increase pressure on infrastructure.

Satisfaction quotient
In India, urbanisation and rural-to-urban migration have speeded up the deconstruction of the old joint family systems into nuclear family units. A 2019 World Bank study has estimated that 34 per cent of the population is now urban – a massive decadal jump from 26 per cent in 2001. This trend adversely affects the safety net that was available to the old in the form of shared responsibility and resources.

Micro family units not only reduce their member size but also the physical space. Further, if there are relocation and rehabilitation issues, the Life Satisfaction Quotient yardstick can easily fall by few notches. Factors like closeness to the family, financial security and familiar surroundings are known to improve life satisfaction.  

Economic strain of longevity
Satisfaction and happiness are subjective values. But economic values are too true to be ignored. As a trend, the golden age of a person’s life is beset with obligations to pay for children’s studies, mortgages and similar long-term expenses. With an advanced age (65+) component added, the fixed income family budget collapses. This has a serious impact on the Adult age (45+) future planning and security. With longer life, much of the savings and other resources of the senior people diminish – pensioners being an exception. NITI Ayog has estimated that only 8% of the working population is in the organized sector and the rest accounts for the informal sector. To finance the increasing needs of the elderly, viable financial instruments must be introduced in the market.

Mainstreaming silver economy
As things stay as they are, there is a need to promote the Silver Economy. The resident knowledge of this segment can be monetised for the benefit of civil society. Riding on technology, these assets can be introduced to several target groups – lawyers, military officers, financial experts, scientists, bureaucrats – all can become resources.

Such efforts have an advantage. They improve the psycho-social wellbeing of citizens and help bond strongly with the civil society through a transactional model. To stay relevant and active, a third career is essential. 

United Nations’ projections
TUN Population Division estimates that by 2050, over 19% of India’s population would be ‘aged.’ In absolute numbers, this is 31 crores (as per the 2011 Census). The fact that the current population of the United States is 33 crores should be indicative enough


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