Thursday, June 21, 2012

Elderly issues 21.06.2012

Right to Dignified Aging.

Everyone in the neighbourhood knows the gentleman living upstairs. He is an octogenarian , living all by himself. His spouse expired , few years ago due to a sudden stroke. His children - two sons and one daughter are spread across through out the country. They are married and living as dual career families. Fighting ageing ailments and a non-friendly physical environment   (remember that he lives upstairs and uses the stairs while stepping out), he’s been living alone with his grandchildren visiting him once in a year...

India is home to more than 70 million elderly people at present. According to WHO, 2 billion people will be aged 60 and above by 2050 (WHO, April 2012). What does this mean? The world is ageing and so is India with it.  So, does this burgeoning population of the elderly pose as a challenge or an opportunity? That would depend on how their needs are catered to and their security and status as contributing members to society is enhanced.

A quick look at the issues faced by elderly would bring to light the kind of government and social entrepreneurial interventions would be required to address them. Non-communicable physical/ mental ailments such as osteoporosis and arthritis, accidental falls, Alzheimer,  are some of the major concerns amidst the elderly citizens (Source: WHO, 1998a). This coupled with inadequate social protection with traditional family systems breaking down to nuclear families, less purchasing power owing to retirement may make them susceptible to ill-health, social insecurity, and  isolation. Rising crimes against elderly is another concern requiring regulated action. (statistics on elders murdered).

In the social service sector,  NGOs like Help Age India, Nightingales Trust work towards providing comprehensive health care to the silver haired community on one hand. Dignity foundation provides opportunities for active and healthy ageing by programs such as dignity second careers. On the other hand, Social organizations like Nani ka ghar - a entrepreneurial initiative by an IIM student, Chandresh Maithil, attempts in bringing the elderly and the children together on a platform where the latter could learn and grow from the former.

On the government front, laws are in force to legally bind the children to take care of their aged parents, namely, the Maintenance of Parents Act. According to The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, an aged parent may demand maintenance from his/her children just as a wife may demand it from her husband. The Central and State governments has been launching policies such as the National Policy on Older Persons, National Old Age Pension Program, Annapurna Program, etc. However, the benefits of these programs have been questioned several times in terms of the meager budget, improper identification of beneficiaries, lengthy procedures, and irregular payment.

The challenges for meeting the needs of the burgeoning aging population could be changed into opportunity by expanding the field of geriatric care and geriatric social work in India. World Health Organization has given inputs such as training for health professionals on old-age care; preventing and managing age-associated chronic diseases; designing sustainable policies on long-term and palliative care; and developing age-friendly services and settings in addressing the elderly issues.

Our humble attempt to crystalline the various issues faced by the elderly and what has been the role of both government and social entrepreneurs alike to redress them. Our emphasis would be on bringing to the forefront some social innovations in the field, how we may render more respect and dignity to our senior citizens who have lived their lives enriching and developing ours.
World Health Organization’s on Active Aging: Good Health adds life to years.  

7th April, 2012, marked the day for the World Health Day, the theme being that of Aging and Health. From Active Aging to Global age-friendly cities network are the various diverse subjects that have been covered by the worldly renowned organization. Some of the guideline given by the WHO on Aging and Health are as follows:

- Elderly are an invaluable asset to the society both at community and family level. The society must be age inclusive and look upon the elderly as vital social resource.

- Primary Health Cares must be age-friendly. WHO has developed a tool kit to help the PHCs be more age-friendly.

- Developing age friendly environments, both physical and social.

- Developing age - friendly technologies for the elderly. Monique Tsang, reported on the innovative technologies that can help the elderly maintain their independence and their physical health. (

- Global network of age-friendly cities.

Older people make important contributions to society as family members, volunteers and as active participants in the workforce. The wisdom they have gained through life experience makes them a vital social resource.

- Active ageing is the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. It applies to both individuals and population groups.
Ageing takes place within the context of friends, work associates, neighbors and family members. This is why interdependence as well as inter generational solidarity are important tenets of active ageing.

Wir Pflegen (which means ‘We Care’ in German) in 2009, the picture was different. The nationwide association had recently been set up to support people who look after their dependent relatives. Hammerling is now their representative in the federal state of Berlin: “We are working so that people who care for their dependent relatives are valued more and receive more recognition,” he says.

Searching for next best practices for managing growing elderly population? Look no further..

- Dignity foundation: Throughout India, Sheilu Srinivasan is mobilizing "dignitarians" (men and women over 50) in a movement to provide opportunities and life-enrichment services that enable senior citizens to lead productive and rewarding lives. Sheilu created the Dignity Foundation, a membership organization with chapters in cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai, and Jamshedpur, to organize senior citizens to address the social needs of all seniors within their communities. By allowing senior citizens for the first time to be involved as people in charge of their own lives and able to share their wealth of experience with fellow citizens, Sheilu is carving out a place for retirees as significant contributors to Indian society.

- Eng Age: Transforming aging and the way people think about aging by turning affordable senior apartment communities into vibrant centers of learning, wellness and creativity.

By providing life-enhancing programs to low and moderate-income seniors living in affordable apartment communities, Tim is transforming aging into a new beginning. He founded EngAGE: The Art of Active Aging to provide older adults with opportunities for community engagement through programs that nourish mind, body, and spirit.

Tim views housing for senior adults as more than shelter, but as communities of people with the potential to grow, thrive, and contribute their talents and experience to society. He imagined a new system of senior housing built first and foremost on respect and appreciation for the interests and preferences of each individual tenant. Based on this vision, he created a new model of affordable housing that fosters successful aging and promotes physical and mental health. Beyond that, EngAGE offers the support and encouragement older individuals need to pursue their dreams, express their views, expand their intellectual and creative abilities, and live full, rich lives. Tim aims to set a new standard in the field through programs that promote wellness, lifelong learning, artistic exploration and expression, and civic “EngAGEment.” (

- Albeiro Vargas is improving societal treatment of the elderly and creating a model for strong inter generational relations in Colombia through a program that brings children more closely and more regularly into the lives of older people.

- Sonia is helping Ecuador understand, articulate, and address the needs of senior citizens. Sonia creatively applies the proven tactics of human rights advocacy – grassroots organizing, publicity campaigns, legal reform, overhaul of social welfare, and international law–to this integral but previously ignored segment of society. Sonia rejects standard charity work, in which the elderly are mere beneficiaries of individual or collective largesse, and embraces instead, a participatory, activist style in which elderly people themselves lead a public campaign to establish and protect basic human rights.

Sonia organizes young and old people to challenge conventional attitudes about senior citizens' needs, abilities, and overall role in society. Her goal is to narrow the generation gap by helping start joint business ventures, addressing some of each group's basic needs, and exposing young Ecuadorians to issues they will face later in life.

                                                                                                         to be continued

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