Awakening our Sensitivity towards Senior Citizens is the Need of the Hour.
“India is at a peculiar stage in its demographic transition. The country is characterised by a bulge in its youth population, which is a window of opportunity to accelerate growth. However, a parallel phenomenon that requires equal attention is the rising senior citizen population,” Saurabh Garg, secretary, Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, has written in a newspaper article.
Not too soon, not too late, for a subject that is increasingly occupying public space and attention. Senior living is becoming a growing concern, what with many a youngster going overseas, or settling in another city, with the size of the core family coming down, nuclear families as they existed in the past, is indeed becoming a thing of the past.
According to Census 2011, the population of senior citizens was about 10.38 crores, or 8.6% of the total population. Saurbah Garg has pointed out that there is a Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 that gives effect to the provisions for their overall physical and mental well-being. So, while we may have the youngest population globally, they too will age, and what better to make them understand this need, when they are young and growing.
“The Atal Vayo Abhyuday Yojana (AVYAY) is an umbrella scheme that has the vision to create a society where senior citizens live a healthy, happy, empowered, dignified and self-reliant life along with strong social and inter-generational bonding”, he says.
In order to make cities friendly for senior citizens and the disabled, the government is working in mission mode to achieve universal accessibility. This is linked to the ‘Accessible India Campaign’ (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan). Accessibility for senior citizens is not only a matter of convenience but a fundamental aspect of promoting their empowerment and dignity and to enable them to continue making valuable contributions to society, Garg writes.
“Only 12% of the senior citizens in India are aware of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. To bridge the information gap, a national helpline (14567) has been set up to provide information about welfare schemes, to address grievances and other related matters. A participative ratings framework and standards to support the development of the private sector will help in providing the necessary market stewardship while ensuring the highest quality of service delivery in senior citizen homes,” he says.
To promote innovation in products and processes for the benefit of the elders, Senior Care Ageing Growth Engine (SAGE) has been launched to provide one-time equity support to startups that develop business ideas based on the needs of senior citizens. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to think about the problems of senior citizens and come up with innovative out-of-the-box solutions.
More than 50% of older citizens are determined to be active. Retirement age of 60 or around is being questioned and more and more people are getting out to stay at work longer in life. The reverse is equally true, that senior citizens need greater sense of protection.
Businesses searching for experienced and stable staff can leverage the experience, time, and efforts of these senior citizens. Opportunities for participation in labour activities, access to social protection, and security in old age, as well as a positive workplace environment, are keys to achieving a productive ageing society, writes Garg.
In fact, society is increasingly getting sensitised towards caring for the elderly. It is not uncommon any more to see many a citizen extend a helping hand to an older person to cross a road, or find his way across a market.