According to the National Statistical Office’s (NSO) Elderly in India 2021 report, the current elderly population in India is 138 million. The report also touched upon the future briefly, predicting an increase of 41 per cent over the next decade. As per the report, India’s elderly population will have reached 194 million by 2031.
One of the key drivers of this growth is increased life longevity, thanks to advanced medical technology and healthcare facilities. However, one issue India’s health infrastructure has failed to address so far is specialized medical care for the elderly. India woefully lags behind when it comes to senior citizen-friendly healthcare. Although senior-friendly policy and directives have been issued in the past, these have failed to translate into concrete action on the ground.
The situation is much worse when it comes to old age homes. The senior residents of these homes are often left vulnerable to the various problems that come with old age. Although the homes do their utmost to alleviate their issues, it is not enough. Where health is involved, expert and professional help is always required.
The absence of a specialized healthcare infrastructure centered around old age care is a serious handicap. The elderly have different healthcare requirements from other age groups. Multiple chronic diseases begin to take hold at this point which needs constant, long-term care. Unlike popular belief, medical issues and disabilities that crop up in old age are not just a simple constellation of problems. These are serious ailments that can cut a life short if not treated accordingly.
The disconnect between the elderly population, old age homes and healthcare is a grave impediment. NGOs like VridhCare are doing their best to bridge this great divide. By acting as a conduit, VridhCare and similar like-minded organizations provide senior residents of old age homes access to medical facilities that would be otherwise inaccessible. Conducting health camps where volunteers and medical practitioners give their time towards serving the needs of the elderly is an alternative.
However, that is not to say that it is all bad. There have been moments of brilliance where improved healthcare for the elderly has been championed by the upcoming generation. Specialized care along with nursing and medical services are being offered by the private healthcare sector. A downside to this is that not all senior citizens are financially well-off.
A public healthcare infrastructure with a dedicated elderly care section is the need of the hour. There is only so much that non-profits and volunteer organizations can achieve. As technology gets better and medical care improves, the average life expectancy will only increase. And India needs to get its house in order before it is too late.