While India’s celebrated demographic dividend has for decades underpinned its rapid economic progress, a countervailing force may offset some of the gains from having a relatively young population: rapid ageing at the top end of the scale.

Problem of ageing
1. This is a cause of deep concern for policymakers as India already has the world’s second largest population of the elderly, defined as those above 60 years of age.

2. It will generate enormous socio-economic pressures as the demand for healthcare services and tailored accommodation increases to historically unprecedented levels.

3. It is projected that approximately 20% of Indians will be elderly by 2050, marking a dramatic jump from the current 6%.

Way outs
1. Advocacy and information campaigns may be necessary to redirect social attitudes toward ageing, which often do not help the elderly enjoy a life of stability and dignity.

2. The ground realities faced by the elderly include abandonment by their families, destitution and homelessness, inability to access quality health care, and the loneliness and depression, to be addressed.

3. Gearing up the health-care system toward “preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative aspects of health”.

What the data says
1. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 2004 survey, nearly 3% of persons aged above 60 lived alone.

2. The number of elderly living with their spouses was only 9.3%, and those living with their children accounted for 35.6%.

Why such problems exist?
The younger generation within the workforce is left with less time, energy and willingness to care for their parents or simply emigrate abroad. 

Developments in this sector
In the private sector, an estimated demand for 300,000 senior housing units, valued at over $1 billion, has led to a variety of retirement communities emerging across the country, in addition to innovations in healthcare delivery for this group. Yet the poor among the elderly still very much depend on the government for their needs.