The demography of the country exerts several development and welfare implications. Greater the proportion of young persons in the population of a country, larger is the workforce, and thus, more is the economic potential.
But changes in demographic composition characterized by rising share and size of elderly population is appearing in India. The share of elderly is increasing steadily though it remains much lower compared to international situations.
As per the Population Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons (aged 60 years or above) in the country; comprising of 53 million females and 51 million males.
Rising share of the elderly population
The census trends show that both the share and size of elderly population is increasing over time. It was just 5.6% of the total population in 1961 and reached 8.6% in 2011. Share of elderly among males is marginally lower at 8.2%, compared to females 9.0%. Regarding the rural-urban distribution, 71% of elderly population lives in rural areas while 29 % in urban areas.
Increasing old-age dependency ratio
Along with the rising old age population, the old-age dependency ratio increased from 10.9% in 1961 to 14.2% in 2011 for all India.
Growth of the elderly population is due to the longevity of life due to economic well-being, better medical facilities and reduction in fertility rates. Changing demographic profile featured by the rise in the number of elderly people has thrown many new challenges in the social, economic and political domains.
Government initiatives to support the elderly
Over the last one decade, the government has enhanced social security spending for the elderly. Several programs were launched by various Ministries in association with stage governments. Following are the important initiatives.
- The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has been designated as the nodal Ministry for the welfare of senior citizens.
- The Ageing Division in the Social Defence Bureau of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment develops and implements programmes and policies for the senior citizens in collaboration with State Governments, Non- Governmental Organizations PRIs and civil society.
- An "Integrated Programme for Older Persons" (IPOP) was launched in 1992, and was revised in 2008 and 2015 with new innovative projects for the welfare of Senior Citizens. Several initiatives including the creation of Old Age Homes, awareness initiatives etc. were made as part of the programme.
- A National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) was announced in January 1999 to ensure the well-being of the older persons.
- The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act was enacted in December 2007. Following are the main features of the Act.
i. Maintenance of Parents/ senior citizens by children/ relatives made obligatory
and justiciable through Tribunals
ii. Revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence
iii. Penal provision for abandonment of senior citizens
iv. Establishment of Old Age Homes for Indigent Senior Citizens
v. Protection of life and property of senior citizens
vi. Adequate medical facilities for Senior Citizens
- National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSrC) was established in 2012.
Welfare schemes for the elderly
Central ministries and state governments are implementing various welfare schemes for the elder people.
Elderly pension under NSAP: Under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) by Ministry of Rural Development, Central assistance is given towards pension at Rs. 200/- per month to persons above 60 years and at Rs. 500/- per month to persons above 80 years belonging to a household below poverty line, which is meant to be supplemented by at least an equal contribution by the States.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has implemented the National Programme for the Health Care for the Elderly (NPHCE) from the year 2010-11. The Programme provides preventive, curative and rehabilitative services to the elderly persons at various level of health care delivery system of the country. It also establishes geriatric department in all the existing 8 Regional Geriatrics Centres. The Ministry also strengthened healthcare facilities for elderly at various levels of 100 identified districts in 21 States of the country.
Ministry of Finance: The Ministry has allowed health insurance programmes up to the age of 65 years.
Several tax incentives for senior citizens and very senior citizens were provided by the Ministry of Finance. These include Higher income tax exemption for both senior citizens and very senior citizens.
Deductions under Section 80DD: Higher interest payments for Senior Citizen Saving Schemes.
Deduction for medical treatment of a dependent senior citizen suffering from specified diseases.
Ministry of Home Affairs: Chapter V of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 provides for protection of life and property of senior citizens.
Ministry of Railways and Civil Aviation: have introduced concessions fare concessions for senior citizens.