As a privileged youth who can socially function, understanding what the aged population of our society goes through might be a lot more complex than one could imagine.
Growing up, I never understood what my grandparents meant by saying that I had to take care of them when they “lost their capabilities”. I thought it was Indian culture to take care of your family members regardless of how old they get but the younger me could not have been more wrong.
A recently conducted national survey by the IIPS suggested that both the Indian system and the Indian infrastructure for the aged population in India is rather dysfunctional.
This 632-page long survey, spanning 72,000 adults above the age of 45, covered everything from housing conditions to age-sex distribution only to find out that the living condition for the aged population of the country is deplorable.
One can only imagine that the situation only gets worse for senior citizens and older.
Most senior citizens have very little or no access to mental health care. Aging reflects a lot on the mental health issues that individuals face. Depression is a very real issue for older people who do not have the requisite resources to cope with it.
The monotony and lack of diversity in their lives also mean they tend to not enjoy things that once used to be their interest, a condition known as Anhedonia.
Low self-esteem and dislike for their bodies are common issues as well.
Alienation because of an isolated lifestyle, generational gaps affect their mental health adversely. The anxiety of losing out and the grief from losing older friends to illnesses or otherwise make them more susceptible to mental health issues.
Elder abuse is rampant. Most of these victims are older, isolated adults who are away from their families. The abuser takes advantage of the older person’s vulnerability for their benefit or otherwise.
— IndiaHomeHealthCare (@IHHCHomeCare) March 20, 2015
Financial abuse of older parents or family members is a widespread problem along with neglect and exploitation.
The geriatric population requires serious healthcare facilities which India is currently lacking. From a very limited choice of financial plans, insurances, and packages to choose from to almost no emergency health services, senior citizens have to pay high renewal premiums, which most of the time, they can’t seem to afford.
Government facilities for the older people too are very poor as well. Around two-thirds of the elderly come from rural backgrounds while half of them are from poor-socio economic backgrounds.
The infrastructure in government hospitals is not suitable for elder individuals coming from any socio-economical background. The lack of beds, inadequate number of doctors, and the long waiting line only adds to the declining health of the elderly who would require medical attention.
Geriatric care is mostly present in the urban areas which worsens the quality of care available in the rural areas, especially with a sizeable percentage of the senior citizens residing in villages.
Most individuals have availed geriatric outpatient department (OPD) services which are only available in the urban areas in tertiary hospitals. Facilities like residential old-age homes, daycares, emergency medical facilities are nonexistent or very little to the seniors who are from the rural side of the population.
Old age becomes inevitably synonymous with losing loved ones including one’s partner or friends. It makes loneliness your only best friend which affects the elderly a lot.
Most of these individuals have working children who too rarely spend time with their parents as they would earlier. The lack of companionship and the chronic loneliness make days seem more mundane and alien for the older population of our society.
Life expectancy in India now is almost up to 70 years of age. This increase further worsens the economic facilities and avenues for the senior population of our country.
With maximum government jobs having a retirement age of 60, post-retirement job opportunities and ways of earning a living for older people are very low. Even in the private sector, except for a handful, majority of the elderly coming from rural areas are not digitally skilled and hence, lose out on numerous opportunities.
Older people unlike their younger counterparts are low on employment opportunities and various experts have commented that this worsens their mental health and their self-image since they get dependent on others for their monetary wants and needs.
Acquiring a job post your sixties is not only different for people from an urban setting but the opportunity is non-existent for the ones who are in the manual labor and the unorganized sector. Likewise, the elderly also have to be dependent on third parties for availing basic services such as banking or healthcare.
The situation of elderly women is worse than that of their male counterparts. Women face similar situations when they are not capable of earning themselves a living. They too lack economical and emotional backing.
The dependency on their caretakers emotionally, financially, and physically too is straining for the individuals involved. The caretaker might get overstressed and anxious which harms their physical and mental health. Their quality of care and aid get hampered because of this inevitable situation.
Absence of any systemic or structural support system for the aged exacerbates this issue.
My grandparents are a part of those million seniors who worry about their future because of how bleak and dark it appears. They are apprehensive of living in their own homes and being a burden to their own family.
They face the anxiety of being abandoned and feel the brunt of aging which snatches away whatever they had built up in their formative years. Preventing the maltreatment of the elderly is basic human decency.
The latency of this widespread problem needs to be exposed and the problems they face should be widely talked about.
Giving them their necessities and framing pro-aged policies should be done. It is time that we stop looking at the elderly as social burdens and start seeing them as individuals who are deserving of security, love, and safety.