In their old age, they face age-old problems

From the Times of India
In their old age, they face age-old problems

TNN | Updated: Oct 12, 2016, 02.26 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The numbers don’t make for a comfortable reading: there are over 10 crore senior citizens in India of which close to 1.5 crore live alone. Nearly 3/4th of these are women, according to the 2011 Census.
All this begs the question whether there’s adequate focus on their well-being: the Kalkaji incident shows that there probably isn’t. Mental health experts and civil society members, alike, stress on the need to prepare people for old age.
While planning for old age, focus is largely on financial security and health. “But this is just one aspect. We need to invest in social life and sensitise people about old age,” says Himanshu Rath founder chairman, Agewell Foundation, an organisation that works towards empowerment and welfare of older people.
The foundation recently released a survey report on the financial status of the elderly in India. It surveyed 15,000 senior citizens and the findings were startling, if not surprising: as much as 65% of the people admitted that they were going through a financial crisis and were dependent on others. While 35% of those surveyed said they were financially secure, a seemingly robust planning might not always help once one crosses the age of 75 years. This is because there is a gradual increase in risk factors due to medical conditions, impaired judgment and restricted movement.
Dr Rajesh Sagar, professor of psychiatry, AIIMS, says: “These people are vulnerable. There is a need to put in place a system so that they feel a part of the community where they live. RWAs, NGOs and police can together help develop such a system.”
Generally, people who have consciously decided to live alone are mentally prepared to the reality that they have to fend for themselves, adds Rath.
Ravi Kalra, founding president of The Earth Saviours Foundation, has numerous stories to tell about elderly parents being ill-treated by children. “We have found elderly people from well-to-do families living on the streets,” says Kalra.
Experts say it’s important to sensitise people about old age. Says Dr Nimesh Desai, director of Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences: “Even if people decide to live alone in old age, they would need assistance as they grow old. It’s important for the elderly to stay connected with their surroundings.”

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