36% elders want to work; 40%, work as long as possible
Geetanjali Minhas | June 15, 2022 | Mumbai
About 70% of the elderly population is not working and depends on their family or pension for the day to-day maintenance, finds HelpAge India’s latest national report, 'Bridge the Gap: Understanding Elder Needs'.
India has approximately 138 million elderly people, forming nearly 10% of its population. The report, released here Tuesday, on the eve of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day says that 47% elders in India are dependent on their family for their source of income and 34% are depend on their pension and cash transfers are their source of income.
52% elders have reported that the income was inadequate. 40% elders have said they do not feel financially secure out of which 57% elders said their ‘incurred expenses are more than savings/income' and 45% have said their pension was not enough.
With regards to Mumbai, 72% elderly have said they are dependent on family for money while 16% depend upon pensions and cash transfers. 58% of elderly say that their income is adequate and 42% say it is inadequate. Overall, over 70% elders in Mumbai feel satisfied with their financial security.
The report has highlighted aspirations of older persons and their families for exploring employment and volunteering opportunities and how social and other factors act as enablers and hindrances. It finds that out of those willing to work in old age, 40% wanted to work as long as possible. It recommends that both financial planning for later years and social security needs much greater attention.
It finds that 71% elders are not working. 36% elders are willing to work and 40% of them want to work as long as possible. 61% elders feel they aren’t adequate and accessible employment opportunities for elderly available.
In the city of Mumbai, 79% of elders are not working even as 37.5% say they have access to employment opportunities. The study further finds out that 26% of Mumbai elders are willing to work after their retirement.
The report is based on a sample size of 4,399 elder respondents (60+) and 2,200 Young Adult Caregivers (16-55 years) largely across SEC A,B,C categories, across 22 cities in India. The survey largely reports the situation amongst the urban middle class. The plight of the poor urban and rural elderly and those who have no support system, adequate income or pension is only anyone’s guess.
HelpAge has been advocating for a Universal Pension of Rs. 3,000 a month so that every elder can live life with dignity. “The need to close this gap is more urgent now than ever, post the pandemic,” it says.
HelpAge’s has been successfully running the initiative of Elder Self-Help-Groups and its report findings say that around 30% of the elderly are willing to volunteer and contribute to society. In Mumbai around 24% of the elderly are willing to volunteer and contribute to society whereas only 12% are currently involved in volunteering work.
45% elderly suggested Work from Home as the best means, 34% have asked more respect be given to working elderly and 29% have asked for increase in retirement age and jobs exclusively for elderly.
The report cites a national consensus amongst caregivers for work from home (WFH) as the best way to employ senior citizens. In Mumbai, 41% of care givers (which include family members) and 24% elderly says that WFH is best for them.
Former Mumbai mayor and advocate, Nirmala Samant Prabhavlkar, who has been working in the area of geriatric care said that the Government of India is working towards a policy for senior citizens recognising that they can be very productive, sincere towards their work and take care of younger people.
“For silver economy, the Government of India can engage senior citizens through work from home. Under the PM-DAKSH portal within the given criteria any person can apply for geriatric care giver (special focus on mental health) training program as and in the coming two years geriatric care with dominate the care giver sector,” she said.
The HelpAge report also says that 52% elders attributed feeling love and cared for by family members, 78% elders stated that their family feeds them well and provides good food. 41% said their family takes care of their medical costs.
In terms of healthcare facilities ,87% elders reported availability of healthcare facilities nearby, however 78% elders mentioned unavailability of App-based/Online healthcare facilities. 67% elderly said they do not have any health insurance at this critical stage in their lives and only 13% said they are covered under government insurance schemes.
In Mumbai, as many as 97% elderly have said there are health facilities around and 74% caregivers (including family members) have confirmed about some health facility around for senior citizens.
The report further says that post covid the need for better health protection has strongly emerged with 49% elderly expressing their aspiration for improved health through better health insurance and better health facilities. 42% elders said there should be more support from home. “There needs to be an inherent systemic investment in elder healthcare with more elder friendly facilities and healthcare schemes for elders,” it says.
Prakash N Borgaonkar, Head, Maharashtra and Goa, HelpAge India, said, “Health Insurance is a major gap that needs to be addressed as most senior citizens are not covered under it and it is critical that at this stage in their lives they have it so they don’t need to dip into their savings. Elders today don’t want to be considered through the lens of sympathy and dependency only but as active contributing members of society.”
In terms of digital access, 71% elders do not have access to smart phones or have not yet optimized its benefits and use it primarily for calling purposes (49%), social media (30%) and banking transactions (17%). 34% of users of smart phones said they need someone to teach them. In Mumbai, 34% elderly say they use smartphone out of which 50% mainly use it for social media, 39% for making calls and 25% for bank transaction.In Mumbai, 66% of elderly feel that they should be given training for digital inclusion so that it becomes easier for them to operate bank accounts, do UPI payments, and access social media.
“Elders want to learn new things, stay in tune with speed in the digital era. It is ageism that stops one from viewing elders as productive members of society and we need to change this perception,” added Borgaonkar.
Additionally, the findings also say that elder abuse is a sensitive subject amongst most Indian families and show a sharp contrast on the perception of the existence of abuse to admitting the experience of abuse personally.
Nationally, 59% elders feel that elder abuse is prevalent in society while only 10% elders admitted to being a victim of elder abuse with relatives (36%), son (35%) and daughter-in-law (21%) being the top 3 perpetrators. Disrespect (57%), verbal abuse (38%), neglect (33%), economic exploitation (24%) and 13% elders experienced physical abuse in the form of beating and slapping.
With regards to Mumbai, 67% elderly feel that such abuse is prevalent in society and 9% said they were themselves victims. Elders attribute the abuse to their sons’ (56%) and daughters’ in law (28%) as among the biggest perpetrators of abuse.
Nationally, as a response to abuse faced 47% stated they stopped talking to family. In Mumbai, 33% of elderly who were abused stated they stopped talking to family.
58percent of elderly nationally, opined family members need to be counselled. 56% of elderly said to deal with abuse, time bound decisions and an age friendly response system needs to be put in place at a policy level.
The report also finds that 46% of the elders are not aware of any abuse redressal mechanism and only 13% elders are aware of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
In Mumbai, nearly 60% elderly say that they are not aware of redressal mechanism for abuse, in Bengaluru the number is 80% and in Raipur 84% elders are not aware that such a mechanism exists .
“Despite majority (82%) elders living with their families, 79% elders feel their family does not spend enough time with them. 59% want their family members to spend more time with them. 43.1% elders feel neglected and left out by younger generations. These gaps need to be closely looked at and addressed. Today the lifespan of the elderly is far longer and many live well into their 80s and 90s. It imperative that they lead their second innings with dignity with equal and adequate opportunities and access to fulfil their basic needs and improve their quality of life”added Borgaonkar.
Health guru Mickey Mehta too said that the responsibility of elder care falls on younger generation and it is responsibility of family members to take care, give good food and time to elders in their homes. “Our elders are our foundation,” he said.
As per WHO, in India, life expectancy at birth increased to 69.6 years in 2020 from expected 47.7 years in 1970. With the declining fertility along with the increase in life expectancy the number of older persons in the population is expected to increase by more than double from 10 crores in 2011 to 23 crores in 2036, an increase in their share to the total population from 8.4 to 14.9 percent .
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