Legal Framework for the Socio-Economic Security and Healthcare of Elderly Citizens in India

Abstract



The elderly population in India has traditionally enjoyed privileges within the framework of a social economy where the needs of the old remained a moral responsibility of the family, kin, and community. However, the changing times have forced a shift in the approach to senior-age care. An old person finds him or herself stuck in a situation between an insensitive state and the demands of globalization. The World Health Organization reports that about 1 in 6 older adults in India experience abuse, accounting for nearly 36 million individuals (Breaking the Silence on Elder Abuse in India, 2023). However, the actual figures might be much more than reported. The reportage of elderly abuse in the form of harm, and distress has increased due to their vulnerability.

This paper seeks to understand the specific challenges aged people face from the perspective of legal impediments to securing their well-being. Laws and schemes are evaluated based on their effectiveness in improving the overall accessibility to justice for senior citizens. Lastly, the paper sheds light on the amendments needed in the legal system for the socio-economic security and healthcare of elderly citizens in India.

 Keywords: Senior Citizens, Economic Development, Income Security, Legal Amendments.

Introduction 

The world’s population is growing older. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) by 2050, the world’s population aged 60 years and over will double (2.1 billion). The number of persons aged 80 years and above is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million (Ageing and Health, 2022). One of the foremost achievements of the modern era has been the enormous reduction in human mortality. Historically, the mortality records illuminate that advances in the medical arena, schemes towards the eradication of poverty, control over endemic and pandemic diseases, improved sanitation and personal hygiene, control of wars and famines along with improvement in living standards helped to reduce the risk of mortality in all age cohorts.

Over the past two decades, the population of the elderly in India has increased substantially.  The percentage of children under the age of 15 declined from 35% in  National Family Health Survey (NFHS- 3) (2003-05) to 29% in NFHS- 4 (2013-15) (Demographic distress: Will India get older before it gets richer? 2019).  Compared to those aged 60 years and older, the population increased slightly from 9% in NFHS-3 to 10% in NFHS-4 (Demographic distress: Will India get older before it gets richer? 2019). Population aging, life expectancy at age 60 has also increased significantly from about 12 years in 1950 to 18 years in 2015 and is projected to rise further to more than 21 years by 2050 (United Nations, 2015).

India faces an unusual population aging due to lengthening lifespans and dropping fertility. This demographic shift poses a massive and complex challenge to Indian society in the form of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, a vulnerable female-heavy older adult population, changing family structure, and a lack of a social safety net.

 Noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and eyesight conditions, the prevalence of which increase with age. Mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders have also been increasing among older age groups: between 1990 and 2013, mental illness and substance abuse disorders rose from 2.8% to 4% of the total morbidity burden among adults 50-69 years of age (Population Aging in India: Facts, Issues, and Options, 2016). Among adults 70 and older, the increase in the same period was from 1.4% to 1.7% (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2014). Although the reported burden of chronic illness is high, many Non-communicable diseases affecting older citizens remain undiagnosed due to a lack of access to health education, services, and financial resources.

The objective of the study – To understand the necessary legal amendments that need to be introduced to prioritize the socio-economic security and healthcare of elderly citizens in India.

Limitations of the studyThe presented paper is restricted to some aspects of the demographic shift in India’s population. The data that is stated in this paper is collected from secondary sources, there is a lack of accuracy.

Income sources of the aged

According to a survey carried out in 2021 in India, approximately 30 percent of elderly people received monthly government pensions as their primary source of income to support themselves through old age (Source of income among the elderly population in India in 2021, 2023). By contrast, around 17 percent of elderly people had no form of revenue and were dependent on other family members to support them (Source of income among the elderly population in India in 2021, 2023).

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Author : Sagarika Bopanna