59% of elderly people in B'luru dependent on family: Survey

59% of elderly people in Bluru dependent on family: Survey

HelpAge India, on the eve of UN recognized ‘World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’ released its national report ‘Bridge the Gap: Understanding Elder Needs’ on Wednesday.

Bengaluru: HelpAge India, on the eve of UN recognized 'World Elder Abuse Awareness Day' released its national report 'Bridge the Gap: Understanding Elder Needs' on Wednesday. The report was released by Minister of Mines and Geology, Department of Women and Child Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizen, Halappa Basappa Achar at Vidhan Soudha.

India is home to approximately 138 million elderly, forming nearly 10 percent of its population. The impact of COVID 19 was unprecedented and forced governments, institutions and society world over to change the frame from which the elderly are viewed. Elders were identified as the most vulnerable during the pandemic and the hardest hit. In the last two years, HelpAge has been researching the impact of the pandemic on the elderly with Covid 19 being the silent tormentor, but this year is significant, from the point of view of the time-lapse post the devastation of the pandemic and seeing early signs of recovery.

The report therefore, focuses not just on the core existential issues that elderly deal with on a day-to-day basis, but also takes stock of the entirety of their experience. Based on the UN Principles on Ageing of self-fulfilment, participation, independence, dignity and care, the aim of this report is to understand the overarching gaps, which prevent the elderly from living a happy, healthy and productive life.

"The report reveals some alarming data and encourages us to reconsider our attitude toward the elderly. Elders today aspire to work; they don't want to be seen as mere dependents, but as active participants in society. Meanwhile, family continues to have a significant impact on senior adults' quality of life. The family institution of caregiving must be nurtured and supported indefinitely. Health, income, work, and social and digital inclusion have all become critical areas where gaps must be addressed at both a societal and policy level in order for elders to enjoy dignified lives, following the pandemic. As a result, this year's theme is Bridge the Gap," says Prakashan M, State Head – Karnataka, HelpAge India.

The report is dipstick study to understand the overarching gaps in income and employment at old age, health and wellbeing, elder abuse and safety and social and digital inclusion of elderly. It is based on a sample size of 4,399 elder respondents and 2,200 Young Adult Caregivers, largely across SEC A,B,C categories, across 22 cities in India.

It is interestingly to note that nationally 47% elders are dependent on family for source of income while 34% are dependent on pension & cash transfers. Meanwhile in Bengaluru, 59% of elderly are dependent on family, while an equal number (59%) depend upon pensions and cash transfers. It means that a large number of elders in Bengaluru have both – family as well as pension support.

However, when asked about the adequacy of income, nationally 52% elders reported it was inadequate. Meanwhile, a substantial 40% elders said they do not feel financially secure, citing their 'incurred expenses are more than savings/income' (57%) and pension not being enough (45%) as the top reasons. This suggests both financial planning for later years and social security needs much greater attention. Meanwhile in Bengaluru, 78% of elderly say that their income is adequate, while 22% say it is inadequate. Overall, about 79% elders in Bengaluru say they have financial security.

While this survey report largely reports the situation amongst the urban middle class, it only makes one question the plight of the poor urban and rural elderly, many who have no support system or adequate income or pension. HelpAge has been advocating for a Universal Pension of Rs.3000 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.

A sharp 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. In Bengaluru, 54.5% of elders are not working; 48.5% say they have access to employment opportunities. The study further finds out that 33% of Bengaluru elders are willing to work after their retirement.

On the volunteering front, around 30% of the elderly are willing to volunteer and contribute to society. HelpAge's pioneering initiative of Elder Self-Help-Groups (ESHGs) successfully demonstrates elder's desire to stay meaningfully engaged. In Bengaluru, around 46% of the elderly are volunteering and contributing to society.

The key aspirations elderly have cited that are needed to create an enabling environment for employment opportunities are - 45% elderly suggested 'work from home' as the best means; 34% expect more respect be given to working elderly; and 29% have asked for 'increase in retirement age' and 'jobs exclusively for elderly'. A national consensus appears between caregivers for 'work from home (WFH)' as the best way to employ senior citizens. In Bengaluru, 73% of care givers (which include family members) and 51% elderly say that retirement age should be increased for the benefit of senior citizens.

Role of family once again was critical in elder well-being, with 52% elders attributing feeling 'love & cared for' by family members, 78% elders stating that their family feeds them well & provides good food and 41% saying their family takes care of their medical costs.

One good news is that 87% elders reported availability of healthcare facilities nearby. However, 78% mentioned unavailability of app-based /online healthcare facilities and a significant 67% reported lack any health insurance at this critical stage in their lives; only 13% are covered under government insurance schemes. In Bengaluru, a whopping 77% elderly say that there are health facilities around, while 76% caregivers (including family members) confirm about some health facility around for senior citizens.

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