International day of older persons is observed on October 1, every year, under the adoption of a resolution by the UN general assembly to commemorate the year 1999 as the international year of older persons with the theme, “A society for all ages.”
In India, in spite of the increase in the number of elderly persons, their importance and utility are not being adequately recognised by the Indian society. Thanks, to the traditional values prevalent in the Indian society, the situation is not so alarming in comparison to other parts of the globe. But still, there has been a decline concerning the social status and position of senior citizens since they are susceptible to physical and psychological constraints because of the ageing process.
This ageing process has curtailed their economic independence which is of paramount importance to make them less dependent on others.
Although the Indian government has carried out and implemented certain measures for the rights of the senior citizens, most of these schemes only remain in the sarkari papers because of lack of awareness about these schemes by the senior citizens. Here the government should play a proactive role to encompass all the senior citizens under the ambit of the schemes of social justice. The main focus should be on the three key aspects, i.e. health, housing and dignity.
Moreover, most senior citizens will prefer to suffer rather than staining their family name and dragging their children to the court. This age-old Indian mentality has to be changed through proper counselling.
The network of old aged homes with adequate facilities should be proliferated to every corner of the country. Here the PPP model can be introduced keeping in mind that the prices of the old aged homes must be affordable to every section. Proper digital ecosystem should be developed to use information technology (IT) so that the schemes of the government can be properly explained to senior citizens.
Provisions under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens act, 2007 should be explained to senior citizens.
At the community level, we should encourage our senior citizens to participate in the local issues, in residential associations, seek their advice and experience in particular issues in which they have expertise. Apart from that, allowing our children’s to interact more with their grandparents will not only enhance their moral values but will also prevent the feeling of alienation of our old citizens.
With the changing traditional supportive structures and dilution of the joint family system to nuclear family, the most vulnerable section because of this transition is our senior citizens. Projections indicate that the number of elderly population will increase to around 173 million by 2026.
So, India should take a serious look at the needs of the senior people more pragmatically and holistically, as our senior citizens deserve more dignity and respect.
“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, i.e. the whole world is a single family, is what we have learned from our Upanishads and should not forget this under the veil of globalisation. Discrimination of the vulnerable sections like the senior citizens should be avoided.