One in three elders report zero earnings in the past year, only 29% access pensions

One in three elders report zero earnings in the past year, only 29% access pensions

One in every three elderly people reported having no income in the past year, and 32% of elderly individuals or their spouses had an annual income of less than Rs 50,000. Only 29% of elderly people had access to social security schemes such as old-age pensions, contributory pensions, or provident funds. Nearly 65% of elderly individuals said they were not financially secure with their current income and access to savings and investments.

These findings are part of a report released by the voluntary organisation HelpAge India on the eve of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, observed on June 15.

Regarding health, more than half of the elderly (52%) reported facing at least one challenge related to daily living activities, and 54% suffered from two or more non-communicable diseases.

The survey included 5,169 elderly people and 1,333 caregivers across 20 Tier I and Tier II cities in 10 states. The study captured the experiences of elderly people from cities such as Jaipur, Bikaner, Faridabad, Panipat, Kanpur, Bareilly, Indore, Ujjain, Kolkata, Siliguri, Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Greater Mumbai, Solapur, Chennai, Salem, Bengaluru, and Hubli-Dharwad.

These findings are significant given the major demographic shift in India, with the population of those over 60 expected to double from 10.5% in 2022 to 20.8% by 2050.

The report, “Ageing in India: Exploring Preparedness & Response to Care Challenges,” revealed that only 31% of elderly people had health insurance. Most of this coverage was through the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, ESI, and CGHS. Only a small number (3%) had bought commercial health insurance. The main reasons for not having health insurance were lack of awareness (32%), affordability (24%), and feeling that it wasn’t needed (12%).Elder abuse remains a serious issue, with 7% of elderly people reporting abuse. Sons (42%) and daughters-in-law (28%) were the main abusers. The report noted that abuse was more common among illiterate elderly and those with lower incomes, with 73% of abused elders earning less than Rs 100,000 annually.Most elderly victims of abuse also had non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with 94% reporting at least one chronic illness. This increased their dependence on family members.

When faced with abuse, many elderly people either scolded or asked their abusers to stop, told friends or trusted family members, or did nothing. Very few reported the abuse to the police.

Awareness of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, which is a crucial legal resource for elderly victims of abuse, is very low at 9%.

The study also found that family members were the primary caregivers for bedridden or highly dependent elderly people. Most elders said their spouses or children took care of them. However, caregivers faced significant challenges, with 68% providing daily support and spending about 20 hours per week, or nearly three hours a day.

About 29% of caregivers reported physical challenges, and 32% reported financial challenges in providing care.
In terms of digital access, 41% of elderly people had access to a digital device, mostly smartphones, but 59% did not. There was a noticeable gender gap, with 48% of elderly men having access to a digital device compared to 33% of elderly women. Access to digital devices decreased with age, with only 26% of those over 80 having access.

HelpAge India CEO Rohit Prasad emphasised the need for a comprehensive long-term care framework, especially for the most vulnerable segments of the elderly population, such as those over 80, those living alone, and older women. He called for collaboration among all stakeholders to address these needs.

“There is an urgent need to collectively develop a comprehensive long term care framework on provision and financing, together with all stakeholders,” Prasad told TOI.

Inputs from TOI

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