India has the highest demographic dividend it is said. Meanwhile it also true that the young population is ageing and it is time we take adequate measures to cater to their needs in all aspects from health care, infrastructure and social understanding.
While India’s celebrated demographic dividend has for decades underpinned its rapid economic progress, an equally counter force may offset some of the gains from having a relatively young population:
- Rapid ageing at the top end of the scale.
- This is a cause of deep concern for policymakers as India already has the world’s second largest population of the elderly, defined as those above 60 years of age.
- As this 104-million-strong cohort continues to expand at an accelerating pace, it will generate enormous socio-economic pressures as the demand for healthcare services and tailored accommodation spikes to historically unprecedented levels.
- It is projected that approximately 20% of Indians will be elderly by 2050, marking a dramatic jump from the current 6%.
- However, thus far, efforts to develop a regime of health and social care that is attuned to the shifting needs of the population have been insufficient.
- While more mature economies have created multiple models for elder care, such as –
- Universal or widely accessible health insurance,
- Networks of nursing homes
- Palliative care specializations.
It is hard to find such systemic developments in India.
the traditional arrangements for the elderly in an Indian family revolve around care provided by their children.
- According to the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 2004 survey, nearly 3% of persons aged above 60 lived alone.
- The number of elderly living with their spouses was only 9.3%, and those living with their children accounted for 35.6%.
- However, as many among the younger generation within the workforce are left with less time, energy and willingness to care for their parents, or simply emigrate abroad and are unable to do so, senior citizens are increasingly having to turn to other arrangements.
- In the private sector, an estimated demand for 300,000 senior housing units, valued at over $1 billion, has led to a variety of retirement communities emerging across the country, in addition to innovations in healthcare delivery for this group.
- Yet the poor among the elderly still very much depend on the government to think creatively and come up with the resources and institutions to support their needs.
- It is therefore important that a holistic policy action is designed and implemented at all levels. Further a well oiled structure should be in place for ensuring accountability in all aspects from health care, social dwelling and raising awareness in the society. Hence India needs to prepare to avoid a demographic disaster.