Though India boasts of its young population, a survey by a UN panel has indicated that the country has around 90 million ageing people and the figure is expected to touch a whopping 315 million by 2050.
The United Nation Population Fund survey has asked the government to work out on how to cope with the ageing population. The government must invest in social security and health care of older people, it said.
The UNFPA survey, partnered with many other organisation, has noted that aged population is growing rapidly in many developing countries.
‘Building Knowledge Base on Population Ageing in India’ is a survey done in seven states – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashra, Odisha, West Bengal, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, where higher elderly proportion exists.
“India has around 90 million elders at present and the number is expected to increase to a whopping 315 million, constituting 20 percent of the total population by 2050,” the survey said.
Giving a snapshot of the status of elders in India, the survey indicated that 75 percent of the older people live in rural areas, of whom 48 percent are women and half of them widows.
“Bulk of older people are likely to live above 80 years, but they are likely to have no money by the time. It is high time India laid emphasise on health insurance and universalisation of social pension for elderly,” said Mathew Cherian, chief executive of HelpAge India.
As per the survey, women aged 80 and older are more than men of similar age. Three out of five are single, they are very poor and two out of three are fully dependant.
Stressing on the universalisation of pension, Sathyanarayana K.M, national programme officer, Population and Development, said: “We need to streamline old age pension scheme.”
“A country like Nepal which does not have a economic growth like India has univeralisalisation of social pension scheme, whatever be the amount given even if it is $5 or $6, at least the elders benefit something in a quality level,” Sathyanarayana said.
“Now it is time that we need to voice more about this universal pension scheme and health insurance scheme,” the officer said.
Talking about the challenges, he said: “There is a rapid growth of ageing population, we need to tackle issues related to it. sixty is not a retirement age. There is a need for a new beginning to create opportunities for them.”
“The report in summary gives good experiences, which India should learn and quickly gear up,” he said.
The report indicates about 65 percent of elderly suffer from a chronic ailment of which arthritis and rheumatism, cataract, hypertension and diabetes are most prevalent.
“The awareness of the government’s Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) is very low among below poverty line elders. Though the scheme was meant for BPL families several non-BPL families’ elders were also registered for the benefit,” the survey said.
RSBY is a government scheme launched in 2008 which provides medical insurance and covers hospitlisation for the families working in the unorganised sector and living below the poverty line.
“RSBY guidelines need to be looked again, the guidelines are a bit fluid,” Sathyanarayana said.