The Economic Survey 2018-19 has highlighted an interesting demographic trend — India is ageing faster than previously estimated. The country’s population growth will continue to slow down rapidly over the next 20 years, the Survey said, adding that the growth rate will be less than 1% in the 10 years to 2031 and under 0.5% in the next 10 years. When India becomes the world’s most populous country in the middle of 2020s, one of the biggest challenge for the government will be the problem of ageing population. The country may have nearly a fifth of its population above the age of 60 years and higher by 2050. According to the Union government, there will be 34 crore people above 60 years of age in another 30 years – a number higher than the population of the United States. This number is higher than the estimates of global agencies such as the United Nations.
Ageing of the population poses a bigger threat to southern states, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Punjab, says India Ageing Report 2017 published by the UN. For Kerala with healthcare facilities comparable to the developed world, the ageing problem will be far more pronounced. With low birth and infant mortality rates along with high life expectancy, Kerala is sitting on a demographic time bomb. Its population above 60 years is close to 13%. A study by the Centre for Development Studies says the elderly population is expanding at a perpetual rate of 2.3%. The state has 42 lakh people who are 60 years and above with women outnumbering men. Kerala has the highest life expectancy at birth among all Indian states at 71.8 years and 77.8 years for men and women, respectively. The old age dependency ratio for entire Indian population is 142, while the figure for Kerala is 196. The higher dependency ratio means that the proportion of elderly people is higher in the total population.
The state government has rolled out the following schemes for the elderly.
The age-friendly Panchayat initiative looks to ensure good health, participation and quality of life to the Senior Citizens.
The Vayomithram project offers healthcare and support to people above the age of 65 years in urban areas. The scheme provides free medicines, palliative care and help desk to the elderly population. Kerala Social Security Mission has implemented this programme in six municipal corporations and 70 municipalities.
This initiative has been implemented in 15 old age homes by the Social Justice Department. The scheme provides treatment for ailments such as diabetes, asthma, skin diseases, arthritis, eye and ear diseases. The scheme provides Ayurvedic treatment to the Inmates inmates of all government-run old-age homes.
Mandahasam provides for a free tooth set for senior citizens. The scheme addresses nutritional, physical and mental problems of the elderly people who have lost their teeth. The government has prepared a list of dental colleges and treatment centres where elderly people could avail treatment.
Sayamprabha Home project provides day care facilities for the elderly. These facilities offer senior citizens an opportunity to interact with their own age group during daytime.