Elderly In India Are A Growing Concern

With the long-term growth of its economy, India finds itself accelerating more and more towards problems affecting the elderly that are associated with advanced economies, despite traditional values that have been part of the country's culture and lifestyle since the dawn of civilization.

Pointedly, a larger economy means advances in medicine and agriculture, which translates to an increasing life expectancy that, as of 2015, reached 68.13 years on the subcontinent. But along with the growth in life expectancy comes a variety of social ills that works against the elderly population's interests, including increased migration, industrialization, and urbanization.

Through no fault of their own, the elderly do not adapt to change as enthusiastically or smoothly as they did when they were younger. When young families migrate for jobs or to further their education, the elderly are often left behind, as the elderly are often less willing to pack up and leave a place they know well. Young families that traditionally cared for elderly parents now find themselves separated by many miles. Many young, ambitious families leave India and leave elderly parents behind.

With the increasing social and health-related problems, there is a growing response to the need for elderly care - but the services are often reactionary - a response to problems that have grown to calamitous levels.

Health issues are a primary concern. There is only so much a family can do to tend to an elderly parent when they have moved out of the region. To remain in the home, elderly residents are likely to need a cane, a walker, stair lifts or nursing care. 

Healthcare is not the only concern. The National Crime Records Bureau shows a sharply increasing number of crimes against the elderly and a raft of data explains this phenomenon. Crime against the elderly rose by 10 percent in one year alone, jumping from 18,714 cases in 2014 to 20,532 in 2015. The crime rate against the elderly rose highest in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, according to the NCRB.

Indian society was well known for centuries for its compassion towards the elderly, tight-knit families that held together with several generations, and extended family members living in one home or on the same city block. That seems to be changing.

And it is changing quickly. There were 104 million persons age 60 or older in India in 2011 with 53 million elderly women and 51 million elderly men. Of those, most elderly citizens (71 percent) lived in rural areas, while 29 percent lived in cities, which only increases concerns. Yes, rural areas are associated with personal independence, but transportation becomes critical for the elderly – even getting to stores becomes more difficult. Services for the elderly, by contrast, are associated with urban areas, meaning the concentration of services and the elderly population are in two different places.

Overall, the elderly population rose from 5.6 percent of the country's population in 1961 to 8.6 percent in 2011, according to the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, as reported by The Diplomat.

There are no simple solutions for an aging population. Data shows the expectation that family members will care for their elderly parents or grandparents is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. An Agewell Foundation study found that two-thirds of the elderly in India report they are neglected by family members, while one-third reported physical and verbal abuse at the hands of family members. About 25 percent report they have been exploited by family members.

High on the list of reasons that underscore the abuses are emotional and financial issues. Almost 90 percent of the elderly report that emotional issues are behind the abuse they receive, while close to 95 percent said the abuse stems from financial issues.