Magazine 2013
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
Population Ageing In India  
And Care for The Elderly  
Shashi Mishra  
In India increased in aged population is going to be inevitable in near future because of falling  
birth rate and increased in life expectancy, which is an outcome of further decline in death rate.  
Culturally and traditionally, family and its member used to take care of the elderly persons during their  
old age, since joint family in its existence in many societies. But due to modernization and westernization  
the younger generation has become more materialistic and in that process more and more have  
started to live apart from their parents. Added to this phenomenon, due to ongoing fertility transition,  
the number of children born to couple has become very less, which attained the replacement level of  
fertility. Because of this, many elderly people have very small informal networks and that some have no  
informal care available at all.  
Keywords - Aged Population, Life Expectancy, Old Age, Fertility Transition, Informal Networks,  
No Informal Care  
India is one of the oldest societies in the world. Ageing is one of the important stages of human life and  
is a biological, psychological and essentially a social process. It is in them, (the aged people) we find the blend  
of knowledge and wisdom. In the traditional Indian society, the elderly people were held high and were bestowed  
with responsible leadership and powerful decision making positions because of their vast experience and  
knowledge of the world. But today due to modernization ,urbanization ,changes in family system and other  
major social changes, elderly people are neglected and are not given their due respect and roles to play in the  
society. Accumulation of wealth and individualistic values of the west have started ruling the minds of the youth  
and thus ignoring the contributions of the aged.  
Ageing Worldwide and Demographic Transition  
Ageing, an intricate part of life cycle, can generally be described as the process of growing old. Basically  
it is a multidimensional process and affects almost every aspect of the human life. The study of human ageing  
have typically emphasized changes in demography focusing on the ageing of the population –a trend, which  
has characterized industrial societies throughout the twentieth century and in recent decades , has assumed a  
world –wide phenomenon. The problems of the elderly population are growing alarmingly. Weakening of the  
family bonds, migrations of the young’s to town and cities, the acceptance of the small family norms, fertility  
control, and increased entry of into employment are some of the major reasons responsible for this phenomena.  
One of the most important consequences of fertility control and of improvements in the expectation of  
life at birth of the populations all over the world is the ageing of the population characterized by the relatively  
rapid increase of the aged population, that is, the population aged 60 years and above. The size of elderly  
population in India increased from 20 million in 1951 to 57 million in 1991 and is expected to be about 198  
million in 2030 and 326 million in 2050 (United Nations 1995). A majority of this population will be living in rural  
areas. In the Indian society, the cultural values and the traditional practices emphasize that the elderly members  
of the family be treated with honor and respect. The families of the aged persons are expected to ensure the  
needed care and support for the aged. However, recent changes in the size and structure of the families have  
caused the rearrangement of the roles and functions of the members in the families. As a result, social support  
and respect or the elderly is in constant decay. All this factors are challenging the future of this population and  
posing a question to everyone in society as to who has to shoulder the responsibility of the elderly.  
Health Concerns of the Aged population  
The problems that the aged face are on many fronts. On the physical front it may be linked to basic  
needs like food, shelter and physical support and protection. On the psychological front it often means coping  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
with loneliness, feelings of low self worth and general insecurity. Another distressing aspect is the need for  
healthcare, especially with second-generation diseases such as dementia, alzheimer and cancer spreading  
fast. With shrinking families, long term care of the elderly , and meeting their needs on the physical, psychological  
and health fronts is becoming very difficult. Elderly in India is mostly suffering from different forms of hearing,  
visual, speaking and locomotive disability. In general aged in India is in a condition of vulnerability and living  
long in midst of various type and dimensions of insecurity. This detracting condition of the aged in the extended  
years of life makes them more uncomfortable in the life.  
Alternatives like old age homes and shelter for elders are coming up no doubt , but the good ,privately  
run centers can often be beyond the means of many, while the more reasonable ones-for example those run by  
the government are usually plagued by problems of fund shortage., poor infrastructure and poor and untrained  
manpower. The forces of rapid industrialization, urbanization, and globalization are bringing about significant  
changes in the norms, values and attitudes towards the aged people in India. The disorganization of Indian  
joint family system is leading to an erosion of the support system which they used to get.  
Care for the Elderly  
Under the traditional joint family structure in India, the rights and care of the elderly were largely taken  
care of. However, with the disintegration of joint families, large scale migration that forces members of families  
away from their ancestral places and other such reasons the elderly are very often left to their own devices  
They have to depend on persons and services available outside the family for their various needs. In a sense,  
it can be said that the care of the elderly has been taken over by the market, and has become commoditized  
for many; this can be expensive or even unaffordable. The government has tried to intervene through the Act for  
the protection of and assistance to the aged, but the young naturally have to do their share.  
Various studies indicate that there have been significant changes within the family of retired persons after  
the incidence of retirement. They have to often face neglect, disrespect and apathy from their own family  
members to whom they had very sincerely cared, fed, socialized, and educated. Sons and daughter-in –law no  
longer consult them on important family matters. The behavior of daughters found to be more respectful and  
helpful. Most of them feel loss of social status, honor, and respect within their own family.  
As the number of aged people in the country rises, the state and society alike need to pay more  
attention to their care and guaranteeing their rights to dignified living. The rights of aged can be categorized  
into three-Protection, Participation, and Image. Protection refers to the physical psychological and emotional  
safety of the aged. Participation refers to the need to establish a more active role for older persons and Image  
refers to the need to create a healthy and respectful attitude.  
Care giving for the aged is an arduous task that demands understanding, cooperation, adjustment,  
reciprocity and intense feeling of obligation. The government and NGO’s interventions in recent years in terms  
of old age pension, maintenance of parents act, priority in public services and help line ensures a ray of hope.  
Notwithstanding success of these measures which is yet to become a reality, there is urgent need for family  
education to sensitize members and community about ageing obligations and provide training in doing various  
services to the aged.  
Security and Respect for the Aged  
The silent demographic transition over the past few decades has witnessed broadening of the age  
pyramid. At the top Indian society has also undergone tremendous transformation in almost all its aspect;  
social, economic, cultural and political under the developmental forces. Amidst the fast changing social structure,  
particularly the institution of family, it is being increasingly perceived and accepted that care giving to the aged  
is an important responsibility lies with society.Care giving requires economic resources as well as considerable  
time and sacrifice of personal comforts. This is especially true in case of partially or wholly dependent aged  
people. Caring of such aged persons restricts freedom, recreation, disturbs routine life, reduces social interaction,  
and curtails participation in social and cultural functions. Some of the caregivers had expressed that it affected  
their job performance and culminated into conflicting relations with their spouse to the extent of nearly breaking  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
the relationship ties. Tension, irritating behavior and frustration were also indicated. At physical level, some  
talked off tiredness, fatigue and burnout as its effects.  
For providing long term, sustainable care to elderly we need to tap all three sources of care –the family,  
the state and the community. As the care market is largely informal and is integrated with in the social sector,it  
is difficult to obtain he reliable data pertaining to elderly care. Moreover, difficult labour markets co-exist within  
the long term care sector. It is however, an industry marked by low wages and rickety working conditions.  
Coordination and regulation by the state could probably help matters .In providing health care; we need to  
focus not only on in –patient care but also on palliative and rehabilitation care. Health insurance is another area  
where state intervention is required. Further, the government needs to provide health coverage for the Below  
Poverty Line Elderly and the destitute. Rather than just focusing on construction of old age homes, day- care  
centers and the like, it would be more advisable to put in place mechanisms to ensure availability, accessibility  
and affordability of a decent life and good health among the aged. However, this requires a sizeable allocation  
in the social sector and more importantly, responsive and responsible senior citizens associations. NGOs can  
also play a decisive role in this regard.  
Whatever the state and market may do, we must remember that care for the elderly can best be ensured in the  
family structure. The government’s intervention in bringing in an Act to ensure that children take care of the  
aged parents is a very welcome step in this direction. As people approach as the evening of their lives, their  
physical and mental conditions naturally deteriorate, resulting in dependency on their communities and families.  
Let families and the community view this as a payback occasion for the contributions and services rendered by  
them in the past.  
The process of ageing is the result of demographic events of decline in the mortality and fertility is having  
implications in the social and demographic spectrum. The socio- economic health conditions of the aged in  
India have shown a grim picture as they are acquainted with economic, health and social deprivation that result  
in vulnerability among the elderly.  
A society as large and complex in India needs to explore the contemporary society to work out an  
expensive plan for the care and wellbeing of the elderly, which would vary from those in the more developed  
countries due to the different stages of urbanization the and differences in the cultural and familial systems. The  
diversity that has emerged in the ageing process necessitates our efforts to focus on different ageing issues in  
Indian society. This in turn is expected to promote a development of effective age related policies and programs.  
The heterogeneity among the elderly population cannot and should not be ignored, while framing various  
models of care for the elderly in our society. Variations in models for care for elderly range from urban to rural  
social class differences and gender specific to name a few. It is desirable to test each of these models at field,  
before finalizing for its replication.  
S.Siva Raju, Voices of the Elderly in India B.R.Publishing Corporation, Delhi 2011. Print.  
S.N.Tripathy, Om Prakash Shukla,Socio- Economic Issues on Vulnerable People in India Abhijeet  
Publication , New Delhi,2012. Print.  
N.Audinarayana, Urban Elderly in India;Care and Support,B.R. Publishing Corporation,Delhi 2012. Print.