Hyderabad: Implementation of the National Policy for Older Persons is a challenging task as the sheer numbers are making it difficult to achieve the required targets, admitted joint secretary Ghazala Meenai of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
While the policy looks into the issues of abuse, neglect, health care and also financial security, improper planning and lacunae in ensuring that the benefits reach the ground level has been a huge challenge.
Another problem is the manner in which other departments like Finance look into the issues of elderly citizens.
A senior government officer, who attended the global conference, International Federation on Ageing, said, “The issues of senior citizens are considered non-productive expenses by other ministries.
The issues are neglected and only when a hue and cry is raised are some meagre funds allotted.”
“The policies have to be formulated in such a manner that there is contribution also from individuals which will then ease the burden of the government,” he added.
But to achieve this, it is very important to sensitise people at the government and also at the base level.
“The Social Justice and Empowerment ministry has proposed to include elder care as part of school curriculum. This is to ensure that sensitivity towards elders is inculcated right from childhood,” said Ms Meenai.
“Sensitisation at this level is important so that children become a part of elder care and do not neglect them even when their parents are not at home. Our aim is that this sensitivity will also help to curb abuse and neglect, which is one of the major complaints.”
While there exists the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act – 2007, the changing family structures is a big problem.
Many children who are willing to take care of their elderly parents are forced to move out due to work.
There is migration not only abroad but also within India for work purposes.
Dr K.R. Gangadharan, president of the International Federation on Ageing, said, “Opportunities and economic factors are also driving young professionals from their homes to far off destinations. Parents can’t go along as they find it difficult to leave their social circle and adjust to weather conditions. There are various other aspects limited due to age as well. The different facets of elderly care need to be classified and addressed.”
While the government has great plans, clearly, it can’t work with such large numbers; the responsibility, thus lies on families and individuals.
Meanwhile, Despite the lacunae cited by the government, senior citizens feel that the government must concentrate on a good health insurance policy which will take away half of their problems.
President of the Senior Citizens Association, Hyderabad, Dr Vyasa Murthy, said, “A good insurance policy can be framed only by the government. The premium must be framed such that all sections are covered and benefits reach them effectively. Health is a major concern and also a great expense for senior citizens. Most families, even if they want to look after them, can’t take the financial burden of health care.”
Presently, the Indian government is investing on developing the skills of community workers to take care of the elderly.
These are young professionals who are in the field to make a career out of it. However, most middle class people cannot afford their services.
G. Rao, a senior citizen said, “The ground level workers need to be simple, strong and ready to do the lay work. This is proving to the biggest challenge.”
Recently, a group of senior citizens in Tarnaka approached a community based organisation to relocate eight couples into a home where they could be close to each other.
Reason being, they wanted to help each other and staying together would help them be safe.
With such queries coming in, it is important to have people who can satisfy their demands and understand their point of view