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Navigating the challenges of India’s aging population – Addressing healthcare, social, economic, and digital needs

India is facing a significant demographic shift as its elderly population grows. By 2050, India will have 319 million senior citizens, accounting for 19.5 percent of the total population. The global population of those over 60 is expected to double from 12 percent to 22 percent between 2015 and 2050. The aging population in India faces many challenges, including limited access to and expensive healthcare, changing health issues, changes in consumption habits, and a decline in family support systems.

Elderly individuals in India face several challenges, including social, health, economic, and digital issues. The government has taken steps to address these challenges by creating the National Policy on Older Persons and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act to support senior citizens. The government also provides support through various policies and schemes, including pensions, food, and medical assistance. The Indian Constitution also guarantees the right to work, education, and public assistance for those in old age.

However, there is a need to prioritize digital inclusion for the elderly population in India. Technology can improve their quality of life by helping them stay connected with friends and family, increasing their autonomy and self-worth, and participating in the digital world. The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2021–2030 as the Decade of Healthy Aging to improve the lives of older people, and India is a signatory to this global initiative. The government should ensure that elderly individuals have access to digital technologies and training to participate in the digital world and enjoy its benefits.

The growing elderly population in India has led to an increase in senior living facilities. Still, most options cater only to the upper-middle class. The private sector has created 30 existing assisted living projects and plans for 30 more to cater to wealthy retirees and the middle class. Despite challenges like a shortage of facilities for dementia patients, and negative attitudes toward nursing homes, the Covid-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for improved senior care. The market is expected to grow due to increasing chronic diseases, rehabilitation programs, government funding, and policies. It is estimated to reach USD 21.3 billion by 2027.

Older adults may need help with daily activities and complex tasks like managing medicine and physical therapy. This care is crucial for them. In-home and senior care facilities are essential for those living alone or with family members who cannot provide full-time care. As the elderly population grows, it is crucial to prioritize their needs and ensure they receive the care and support they require.

The government provides various schemes to support elderly individuals, including pensions, food, medical assistance, and investments. The government offers various schemes for elderly individuals, including the National Old Age Pension Scheme, Varisth Pension Bima Yojana, Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Annapurna Scheme, Medical Assistance, and Senior Citizens Savings Scheme. The government and the private sector are addressing the challenges faced by elderly citizens, including creating daycare centers, preventing elder abuse, investing in telemedicine, and digitizing health records. Private sector companies offer assisted living projects and senior care services, improving healthcare with technology. However, there is still a need for more specialized care facilities, in-home care, financial support, caregiver training, and reduced stigma toward nursing homes. The government can improve elderly care by expanding policies, increasing public-private partnerships, promoting in-home care, and increasing funding for senior care.

The growing elderly population in India presents several challenges, including limited access to healthcare services, declining traditional family structures, and elder abuse. The government has taken steps to address these challenges. However, there is still a need for more support and resources for elderly individuals, including financial support, caregiver training, and access to digital technologies. With the right policies and actions, ensuring senior citizens get the care and support they need will make India a better place for aging.

Co-authored by Dr KS Uplabdh Gopal. Views expressed are personal. 

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