With the number of senior citizens expected to rise in the coming years, caregivers, experts and government officials discuss geriatric care
GN Bureau | November 16, 2016
According to estimates population in the age group of 60+ in India is expected to be 11.6 crore this year, 14.3 crore by 2021 and 17.3 crore by 2026. Thus, increase in life expectancy requires focus on elderly care and their rights, social and economic needs.
The centre for the study of social change (CSSC), mandated by the ministry of social justice and empowerment to work as regional recourse training centre (RRTC) for implementing government schemes under the integrated programme for older persons (IPOP), is conducting a five-day orientation programme on geriatric care for functionaries of old-age homes and daycare centres.
Speaking on the programme, principal advisor, CSSC, and former Mumbai mayor Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar said, “Everybody is going to age but aging gracefully and an enabling environment plays a very important role. With increase in aging population in India, technical issues need to be dealt with properly as there will be challenges like handling ailments, shortage of healthcare staff like nurses, bed care and home care assistance. So we stared courses to train home care assistants which will not only increase employment but also train people for care of elderly at home and old-age homes.”
She added, “The programme will provide knowledge on policy implementation, capacity building and training to functionaries of old-age homes, impart knowledge on policy through involvement of senior citizen groups, how hospitals can give employment to healthcare assistants trained and certified by the institute. The trainees will be given capacity building training so they are well equipped to handle elderly care diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Speaking on dementia care in elderly, Dr Shubhangi Parkar, professor and HoD, psychiatry, KEM Hospital said, “Dementia is being stigmatised. It needs cognitive correction and specially in elderly care it needs to be developed in a specific manner. Most complications of dementia come from uncontrolled blood pressure, diabetes etc.” Dr Parkar added that dementia care will add pressure on the caregiver to also understand and deal with behaviour and personality changes, associated medical diseases in the elderly. With 80-plus age group becoming a norm, the government needs to be prepared on this area faster with a focus.
“Work being done by NGOs in elderly care is only a drop in the ocean. The policy for senior citizens is not being implemented. We are asking the government to take steps and implement the policy with the help of NGOs and senior citizens,” said Prakash Borgaonkar, secretary, HelpAge India. He added that most seniors are not aware of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 or otherwise, government officials are not able to guide or support them properly. Borgaonkar also said that only after the formation of a tribunal under the Act in each district can it be implemented properly. “They are now saying that policy has no budgetary provision and is declared without a cabinet note.”
“Senior citizens are huge vote banks and have been mentioned in many party manifestoes in recent years. India has more than 112 million senior citizens, 90 percent are not getting regular pension and have no regular income. 39 percent are living alone. 53 percent senior citizens are women, out of whom 51 percent are widows,” Borgaonkar said.
Dr SP Kinjawadekar, president emeritus, all India senior citizens confederation, said that according to the directive principles of the constitution the centre, state and region must provide for the needs of senior people and elderly. There are provisions of non-discrimination, proper justice, support and involvement of senior citizens in consultations, but this does not happen. “Government priorities lie in roads and power, it says there are no funds available for senior citizens and ignores the issue. We are now pleading the government to recognise senior citizens and provide them right under the constitution. It is a long drawn battle.”
He added that the National Policy for Older Persons, 1999, declared by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a very good policy and the government owes it to him to look into it and implement it. He added though the Welfare and Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 exists but is not implemented. “There are senior citizen associations in 27 different states and Maharashtra alone has 3,500 associations, but there is no provision for senior citizen healthcare.”
Sub-divisional magistrate (Suburban), B Pardhe said that the sub-divisional officer (SDO) and magistrate (SDM) are empowered under the Welfare and Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 for its awareness propagation.
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