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Elderly Poverty in India
By 2027, India, the second most populated country in the world, will likely surpass China as the world’s most populated country by adding around 273 million people to its existing population, according to a U.N. report in 2019. Accordingly, the elderly population of India would also increase over the period – from 138 million in 2021 to 194 million in 2031 – the National Statistical Office (NSO) reported. With this growing elderly population, elderly poverty has become a pressing social issue in the country. In a report that the Agewell Foundation in 2021 produced, more than 90 million of the Indian elderly do not have financial security. This article will explore the reasons for elderly poverty in India and some initiatives of the Indian government.

Reasons for Elderly Poverty in India

For elderly Indians, the three important reasons contributing to their poverty are the incomplete welfare system, new family structure and social disparity. Incomplete welfare system for the elderly – While the social welfare system is essential for the elderly to access comfort, not all Indian elder citizens can enjoy that. The main issue of the system is that it does not provide affordable health care. Some reasons for elderly poverty in India are:

  • New Family Structure – The traditional joint family structure in Indian society is fundamental in protecting the economic and social security of elderly citizens. In other words, for Indians, looking after the elderly was previously a value and norm. However, as society developed and people became more occupied, this changed the Indian elderly’s living conditions – more elderly living alone instead of having a family member to take care of them. According to a study by Dr. Abhay B Mane, the number of Indian elderly living by themselves or with their partners increased from 9% in 1992 to 18.7% in 2006.
  • Social Disparity – In India, elderly poverty tends to fall upon women more than men, in particular, women who are widowed. In the World Widows Report from the Loomba Foundation in 2015, there are nearly five crores of widowed women in India. These women suffer discrimination and marginalization in society, contributing to their economic vulnerability. Moreover, due to the lack of access to education for Indian women, this turns into a disadvantage for them when they turn old, increasing their chances of having poorer lives than men. According to a study by Rossella Calvi, poverty rates are 80% less among elderly men than women in India.

Indian Government’s Initiatives

While elderly poverty in India is a tricky issue to solve, the government is attempting to improve the situation of the senior population. Here are some of its initiatives:

  • National Program for Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE) – In 2010, the government implemented the program to deliver an accessible, affordable and dedicated healthcare system to elderly citizens at different levels, for instance, daycare services, rehabilitative services and home care services. In addition, the government also hoped to highlight two concepts in Indian society: healthy aging and activeness.
  • National Action Plan for Senior Citizens ( NAPSrC) – The government drafted the scheme in 2019. It set out the objective to improve the well-being of elderly Indians by providing them with dignified lives. To achieve this aim, government officials planned a series of activities. For example, the program resulted in the building of some extra homes with essential amenities for the elderly to ensure the quality of their lives. According to the Indian government’s report, the objective was an independent task for the central government or collaboration by the central and state governments to achieve.

The Results of the Initiatives

Both schemes achieved important progress. Here are some details about their accomplishments:

  • NPHCE – According to the website of the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, under this program, 8,300 elderly received home-based care services; 29,601 and 69,339 elderly received physiotherapy services from district hospitals and community health services, respectively.
  • NAPSrC – The Indian government launched the drafted scheme in 2019. For the financial years 2020 and 2021, the government announced that it would spend approximately RS 200 crore as the budget provision for the scheme, according to the NAPSrC’s report in 2020.

Overall, while elderly poverty is a pressing issue in India, the Indian government has come up with different solutions such as the NPHCE and NAPSrC schemes. Both have the same intention – to improve the quality of life of the elderly.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Flickr