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RSTV: POLICY WATCH- NATIONAL POLICY FOR SENIOR CITIZENS


Introduction:

Keeping in view the emerging trends in demographic, socio-economic, and other relevant fields in the country, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is drawing a National Policy for Senior Citizens, incorporating issues such as financial & food security, healthcare & nutrition, safety & security, housing and welfare

Background:

  • As India experiences sustained periods of growth, the population will become healthier and live longer. Research indicates that 12% of India’s population will be over the age of 60 by 2030 and according to the UN Population Fund; this is expected to increase to 19.4% by 2050.
  • Projection indicates there are going to be more women than men in the 60+ age group.
  • Increased longevity has resulted in a rise of population above 80 years of age, which accounts for nearly 1.1 Crorepeople.
  • With around 6 lakh people over the age of 100, India is expected to have the highest number of centenarians by 2050. As the number of senior citizens increase from 10.38 Crore in 2011 to an estimated 17.3 Crore in 2026 and 30 Crore in 2050 – the need for programmes for their welfare increases.
  • Increase in life expectancy, coupled with nuclearization of families, dependency on others for their day-to-day maintenance and age-related difficulties; pose a tough challenge to the lives of elderly people.
  • The problem gets exacerbated for the elderly women due to higher economic dependency. In rural areas, where 70% of the elderly live, migration of younger people for economic reasons and the poor quality of medical services, leads to a grim situation, especially for those above 80 years of age.
  • With 5.1 crore of the elderly population living below the poverty line and increasing crimes against senior citizens, the vulnerability of elderly people is unquestionable.

Features of the draft:

  • Integrated insurance products and savings schemes:
    • This basket of products and services explores the possibility of integrated insurance for senior citizens to address both their clinical and non-clinical needs. Further, India needs to adopt best international practices on bundled insurance products to better cater to the evolving needs of India’s population and provide them with multiple, effective saving options.
    • Currently, most Indians rely on personal savings for their post-retirement living expenses with minimal contribution from the government. Therefore, attractive and high-yielding investment avenues such as Senior Citizens Savings Schemes must be created to ensure continued financial independence for seniors.
  • Comprehensive insurance coverage and pension systems:
    • Inclusion of care-at-home and assisted living services in health insurance will be a significant step towards building a well-rounded senior care ecosystem in India. Demand for dependable, specialised and professional senior care services is witnessing a steady rise, especially after Covid-19 outbreak.
    • Additionally, the senior population is undergoing a radical change in their lifestyle and needs. From being a sacrifice-all population, it now has the aspiration and the financial means to fulfil their wants right from travel to investments to self-care. Income security will be critical to ensure that seniors are able to afford these services.
  • Senior-friendly tax structures and health schemes:
    • Tax incentives need to be provided to those living with and taking care of their parents/other dependent senior citizens. The expenses on senior care solutions like home care and care homes should be allowed to become tax-exempt in order to enable faster penetration of such products and services.
    • Currently, there is no clear exemption on GST for services on seniors. It only covers transactions at a hospital. Tax incentives on senior-specific services will not only encourage faster adoption but will also strengthen private sector participation.
  • Second-life career:
    • The policy paper also envisages to provide support to people in their 60s and 70s to find alternative career options like teaching in schools and for consulting/advisory roles with government or private companies.
    • Such practices will not only keep senior citizens meaningfully engaged, but also provide a healthy work-life balance. Another option is to increase retirement age from 60 to 70-75, in line with increased life expectancy.
    • A steady income in old age is critical for senior citizens to lead a life of dignity and to help them become self-reliant.

Other suggestions:

  • We need timely action based on the existing global framework and ensure that action should not fall behind this demographic trend. Increased investments, political will and addressing gaps in data and statistics are key to concerted response
  • We must better equip people in earlier age cohorts, so that they remain in good physical and mental health and continue their involvement in family and community throughout the ageing process.
  • Stronger partnerships between civil society, community and families are necessary to complement the actions taken by Governments in this regard, she added.
  • Issues of poverty, migration, urbanization, ruralisation and feminisation compound the complexity of this emerging phenomenon. Public policy must respond to this bourgeoning need and mainstream action into developmental planning.
  • Gender and social concerns of elderly, particularly elderly women, must be integrated at the policy level.
  • The elderly, especially women, should be represented in decision making.
  • Increasing social/widow pension and its universalization is critical for expanding the extent and reach of benefits.
  • Government must proactively work on life style modification, non-communicable disease management, vision and hearing problem management and accessible health care through Ayushman Bharat.
  • Comprehensive policy needed for short term rehab facilities covering all critical aspects such as guidelines, financing, human resources, technology, monitoring, etc.
  • Focus on securing senior women citizens:Special emphasis needed on securing financial and other wellbeing of senior women citizens
  • Investment in technology and promoting innovation and role of start-ups:There is significant scope for investment in technology for the creation of medical devices, dedicated apps, etc. senior citizen use and active start up ecosystem to encourage to help cater to needs of senior citizen and address them through innovative solutions

Conclusion:

The elderly should be seen as a blessing, not a burden. The elderly are becoming the fastest growing, but underutilized resource available to humanity. Rather than putting them aside, physically (and mentally), to be cared for separately, they should be integrated into the lives of communities where they can make a substantial contribution to improving social conditions. The benefits of turning the ‘problem’ of the elderly into a ‘solution’ for other social problems is being demonstrated in several countries.