There are an estimated 81 million elderly people in the country. Of these, nearly 51 million are poor. UP accounts for about 25 per cent of such senior citizens who are either poor or harassed or both.
What's more, majority of the elderly in UP, as indeed in some other states, are either turned out of their homes or made to lead a neglected life due to property disputes. About 15 per cent of the elderly are completely abandoned by their family.
Mathew Cherian, chief executive of HelpAge India, while sharing these statistics with HT on Tuesday said with such a large population of elderly, UP was among those where HelpAge plans to launch a helpline for its senior citizens. The HelpAge chief was in Lucknow in connection with a training workshop that was organised on Tuesday.
"In fact, some elderly are so upset with the neglect that they have approached HelpAge with the offer that they would prepare a will transferring all their material assets in HelpAge India's favour. They do not want their family to know about it too, saying that their children should be told about their will only after their death," Cherian said.
Already one vriddha mitra for every five villages have been appointed for creating awareness among the people about welfare schemes meant for the elderly. "We have found that poverty, isolation and neglect were the three main causes of concern for the elderly. In UP, it's poverty that actually results in so many elders being isolated by their family," the HelpAge chief said. Cherian said the elderly, specially in rural areas, were largely ignorant of the various schemes, including the Annapurna Scheme of the Government, under which 10 kg of wheat and rice is given or the Rs. 40,000 subsidy that is given to those having a plot of their own to build a house.
"For these purposes we have already set up vriddha sanghas in villages," he added. He said the 'adopt elderly' scheme was already on in UP. HelpAge, which has five mobile medical vans in Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Mathura and Noida, now plans to extend social security and healthcare initiatives to more and more elderly. "We have found that most senior citizens, in rural areas, are unable to get pension. We are trying to do something," he said.