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Problems faced by the old and destitute
Aged people need intensive and long term care, which may increase financial stress on family and the so-called family has to time and money to cater to their own parents' needs. Old-age brings many problems and lack of affection adds to their woes
SIXTY-YEAR-OLD Jajati Keshari Mohanty of Orissa’s capital city Bhubanewsar, a retired first class officer of Indian government is now spending his days in an old-age home far away from his residence. His two sons though are employed in government service, have no time to look after their old father. One year back, their mother too had died in the same old-age home. “I am much happier here than in my home. Here I get all the facilities that I want. I get more affection than i ever got from my family members. This is my family,” says Jajati, who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

This is not only Jayati's tale but several old people suffer the same fate. Aged people need intensive and long term care, which in turn may increase financial stress on the family and the so-called family has to time and money to cater to their own parents' needs. So many socio-economic, social, psychological, health problems among the elderly have been on a rise in India because of the ageing of the population. The needs and problems of the elderly vary according to their age, health, living style and other circumstances, says Kartik Chandra Chand, the president of Gurujan Parishad, an organisation working for elderly persons.

Today Indian elderly population is the second largest in the world. One out of every ten senior citizen of the word lives in India. The aged population of India, which was 56.7 million in 1991, was 75 million in 2001. The population projection made by the Registrar General, India indicates that this number would be 100 million by 2016 and is expected to rise to 137 million by 2021. So the proportion of the population aged 65 and above is expected to increase from four per cent in 1990 to nine per cent by 2030.

According to Dr Kumarbar Das, an Economics professor in University of Mysore, three factors have been important in the decling mortality, which has lead to increase in the old population. These factors are- income growth, improvement in the medical technology and public health programme initiated by the Indian government.

Elderly related diseases are rising sharply because treatment for non communicable disease are often expensive, there is a danger that these diseases will absorb resources needed to combat communicable diseases. “I am suffering from TB from last one year. Every week I go to the government hospital and take some medicines. But my family members are not supporting me,” says another old woman Gobari Bhoi of Orissa’s Puri district. Kalia’s family belongs to ‘Below Poverty Line’ category. Day to day expenses are managed by the daily wages by three sons of Kalia. So there is no source of money for the treatment of aged mother, questions Narayan Bhoi, elder son of the family.

The Constitution of India, in Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy specifies that the state shall within the limits of its economic policy provide for assistance to the elderly. National Old age Pension Scheme (NOAP) was introduced by the Indian government to provide Rupees 200 per month to the old and destitute people. Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the government wants to double the number of present 87 lakh beneficiaries under this scheme and has asked all the states to respond positively. States will have to provide Rs 3772 crore as their share for it.

Since the elderly population is increasing and this trend will be there in future as projected by the Government agency, policy makers should be aware of the multiple problems related to ageing.

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