Pay attention to the needs of the elderly | HT Editorial
About 75 million elderly people in India suffer from chronic diseases, shows the first part of The Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI), released last Wednesday. About 45 million have cardiovascular diseases and hypertension; about 20 million suffer from diabetes; and 24% of the elderly have difficulty in performing daily functions. With the demographic transition underway, from 9% in 2011, the 60-plus population is likely to go up to 20% in 2050.
The LASI study is a pressing reminder that India needs to invest substantial financial and human resources in geriatric care. Traditional support systems have weakened over the years due to fewer children in each family, increased employment opportunities for women, and the rise of nuclear families. According to another study by Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, there is no specialised training in geriatrics in most medical schools. And whatever little geriatric care is available, it is restricted to tertiary hospitals in urban areas and is prohibitively expensive.
The Centre’s National Programme for the Health Care of Elderly in 2011 promises preventive, curative and rehabilitative care, specialised training of health professionals, and aims to ensure full participation of the elderly in society. To meet this objective, geriatric health care services must be made part of the primary health care services. Importantly, as the PGIMER report says, the Centre must come up with a comprehensive preventive package, which provides awareness regarding common geriatric problems with a focus on nutrition, exercise, and the promotion of mental well-being.