Whoever said India is one country that is forever young – and that ‘youthfulness’ is going to be the key differentiator for the Indian marketplace? According to the Census, the 60-plus segment grew from 5.6 per cent in 1961 to 7.5 in 2001. And it is estimated that from 77 million in 2001, the number is likely to grow to 179 million in 2031 — which will be 12 per cent of India’s population. In 2051, old people will account for 301 million — 17 per cent of the population.
Cutting to the chase, 45 years on, one in every six of us will be old, that is, at least 60-plus.
The Hindustan Times has the seven-year findings of Agewell Foundation. The organisation has a sample size of 45,31,694 old people. Of these, 15,81,753 (34 per cent or roughly one-third) have revealed that they face “family/social problems” — which include isolation by family members/relatives/neighbours, loneliness and alienation, less participation in family or social activities and even physical or mental abuse.
The other old-age complaints have to do with legal/medical/financial issues (from 9,78,255 people), pension/insurance problems (10,11,095), residential problems (4,37,672) and suggestions/advice (5,22,919).
“India is the only country in the world where blessings talk about ‘Jug jug jiyo’ or ‘Sau saal jiyo’ — there is no equivalent of these in any other culture,” says Himanshu Rath, director, Agewell Foundation. “And yet, old age seems to have become a curse.” Around 24 per cent of votes during the parliamentary elections, he says, are from the elder citizens.
“Political leadership too is vested in the hands of the elders – so why is there is a woeful lack of policy when it comes to implementing elders’ needs?”