Taking care of ageing populations is usually considered a ‘first world problem’, especially in countries like Japan and in Europe. But while India’s focus – and, indeed, mantra – has been reaping its ‘demographic dividend’, India’s aged are also growing in size. With life expectancy at birth at 69.7 years in the 2015-19 period – still below the global average of 72.6 years, but an improvement from 69.4 years in the 2014-18 period – improving the ease of living for our senior citizens should also become a policy focus. This will require taking a life cycle approach to improving life expectancy, a move that will parlay into improvements in life expectancy at birth and well beyond.
Better quality of life and longevity must be the goals of improving life expectancy. This means ensuring sustainable healthcare systems, improved accessibility of care and reducing the incidence of preventable burden of disease. Retirement homes should provide alternatives for those requiring assisted living.
However much morality lessons are weaved to encourage adult children’s support as part of ‘traditional duty’, the reality of the post-joint family structure must be taken on board as standard practice. Improved, accessible healthcare systems, especially geriatrics, are essential as the share of India’s ageing population grows, a vast number in absolute terms even for a ‘young nation’.
Pension schemes and insurance penetration should also make systemic inroads in a country that still has vast holes in its welfare responsibilities. India’s young may well be its future. But it is its ageing population that deserves the support that is required. Even the young, after all, should look forward to a healthy, happy life that is owed to them as they live longer. (Economic Times)
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