The government today launched a study to assess the health needs and issues of elderly people in the country, a move aimed at formulating better schemes and policies for them.
Terming it the "largest survey of its kind", the Union Health Ministry launched the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI), which will survey over 60,000 elderly people and provide data on their health needs.
"The study is important due to the increasing population of elderly people in the country. It will provide valuable data on their health needs and the issues faced by them given the changing social structures," health secretary BP Sharma said.
The study will help the "ministry draw up policy tools to address their issues".
The LASI study will provide guidance for designing schemes for the elderly, he said.
Sharma also said that the Health Protection Scheme announced in the 2016-17 budget has a special component of Rs 30,000 for the elderly in the family.
DG, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Soumya Swaminathan said this is a tremendous opportunity as it will pave the way for other studies on social justice issues.
Anita Agnihotri, Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, said the study will help design policies to mainstream the elderly, reduce their vulnerabilities and enhance access to various services.
LASI is the largest study on the elderly population in the country. The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in Mumbai in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and University of Southern California (USC) in the USA is undertaking it under the aegis of the Health Ministry.
LASI is jointly funded by the Health Ministry, the United States' National Institute on Ageing and the United Nations Population Fund-India.
A Union Health Ministry statement said population ageing is taking place in nearly all the countries and the global share of older people aged 60 years or over increased from 9.2 per cent in 1990 to 11.7 per cent in 2013 and will continue to grow as a proportion of the world population, reaching 21.1 per cent by 2050.
Presently, about two thirds of the world's elderly people live in developing countries. By 2050, nearly 8 in 10 of the world's elderly population will live in the less-developed regions, it said.
Referring to the 2011 census, the Health Ministry said
that the 60+ population accounted for 8.6 per cent of India's total population or 103.84 million elderly.
With currently 1.3 billion people, India is projected to become the world's most populous country within a decade. There are several forces driving India's population growth and changing age structure, including an upward trend in life expectancy.
An Indian born in 1950 could expect to live for 37 years, whereas life expectancy at birth today has nearly doubled to 68 years. By 2050, it is projected to increase to 76 years.
As a result, India's population will rise from 1.3 billion to an estimated 1.7 billion by 2050, with a much larger elderly share of around 340 million.
Including the pre-retirement phase (population age 45+), the proportion will rise to over 30 per cent or almost 600 million persons. Between 2011 and 2050, the number of old people of age 75 and above is expected to increase by 340 per cent, the Health Ministry statement said.
"As no sufficiently broad nationally representative dataset on older population is currently available in India, comprehensive new scientific data is needed to conduct analyses of health, economic and social challenges based on population ageing to formulate mid and long-term policies and programmes to address these and other challenges presented by population ageing.
"LASI will contribute greatly to the newly launched National Programme for Healthcare for the Elderly (NPHCE) and the social and economic security programmes planned to be initiated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE)," the Ministry said in the statement.
"The study will be important as it will investigate various health structures and impact of social determinants on the health of the elderly. It will also help in the framing of evidence-based policy," said Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services (DGHS).