People worldwide are living longer. The share of senior citizens—60 years and above—is projected to jump by nearly 20% in 2050, as per a United Nations Population Fund report. In this regard, World Senior Citizens’ Day on August 21 is aimed at raising awareness about issues which affect the elders.
For most senior citizens in India, some of the biggest concerns include healthcare costs, lack of financial support and security. Take health insurance, for instance, sudden unforeseen medical expenses could severely impact the bank balance. With cost of medical care going up, it is necessary that every senior citizen should be adequately covered, points out Nilesh Sathe, retired member of Insurance and Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI). “Pre-existing diseases are generally covered after four years of regular renewal. Saving enough during active life to provide for pension is the necessity. In order to live life without worries, one must make hay while the sun shines. Plan or perish,” he says.
Besides, lack of information about various schemes targeted at senior citizens remains an impediment, too. “Take for example, the Prime Minister Vaya Vandana Yojana that offers great returns to those above 60. Not many are aware of the scheme. From the Ayushman Bharat Yojana to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, the government must utilise its Common Service Centre infrastructure to inform the elderly of their rights and privileges,” says Dr Sunil Gupta, a chartered accountant who has served as an independent director on the boards of public sector banks in India.
In a similar vein, issues concerning mental and physical healthcare need to be highlighted suitably. There are many perceived stigma and notions associated with mental health and ageism in India. For instance, many older people and their families may believe that depression is quite common with ageing. Proper diagnosis remains a challenge as quite often changes in mood, interest, activity level and personality are incorrectly attributed to ageing and perhaps a possibility of a mental illness is not considered. In addition, senior citizens may have multiple health issues requiring various medications, which may also influence their mood. “Mental illness in older adults is treatable when it is discovered and family and loved one have an important role to play in this regard. Regular follow-ups with a medical practitioner and ensuring that the senior citizen takes their medications on time is essential,” says Dr Harish Shetty, Psychiatrist, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital.
As you age, adopting an active and healthy lifestyle is of prime importance to help regulate and monitor the health base. An active fitness routine involving mild exercises can benefit you to start living your life again and will surely help you to enjoy the strength, elasticity, and dexterity you used to have and you’ll feel full of vigor and you might possibly pay fewer visits to your health expert.
Last but not least, a continuous dialogue needs to be initiated to address issues of senior citizens. This platform is one such effort in this direction.