23 Jan 2014

1st October: International Day of Older Persons

“Ageing is a development issue. Healthy older persons are a resource for their families, their communities and the economy"-states WHO Brasilia declaration on healthy ageing, 1996.The slogan for this year’s International Day of Older Persons is, “Older people – a new power for development”.
Development alone cannot bring peace and prosperity unless social justice and equality of older people are ensured. With the improvement in health services, Life Expectancy at birth for both males and females has shown a steady rise and it has contributed to an increase in the number of persons in the category of 60+. Thus as the world develops socio-economically, the number of aged increases and their contribution through government service, honorary jobs, volunteer work, sharing of experience and knowledge, helping their families in caring responsibilities and participation in gainful employment will also grow. 
Such contributions to development can only be ensured if older persons enjoy adequate levels of health, for which appropriate policies need to be in place. In line with the Madrid International Plan of Action, the World Health Organization launched in 2002 a document "Active Ageing - A Policy Framework", outlining its approaches and perspectives for healthy ageing throughout the life course.
India, a sub-continent that carries 15 per cent of the world’s population, is gradually undergoing a demographic change as a result of many factors including specific development programs. With decline in fertility and mortality rates accompanied by an improvement in child survival and increased life expectancy, a significant feature of demographic change is the progressive increase in the number of older people. In 1951, 60+ populations were around 20 million. Three decades later in 1981, it was a little over 43 million, a further decade later in 1991, this had increased to 55.30 million, in 2001 it was 76.5 million and in 2011 it was 103.2 million.
International convention, legal enactments, constitutional provisions etc emphasises the need for equality and empowerment of older people. Well-being of older persons has been mandated in the Constitution of India. Article 41, Directive Principle of State Policy stipulates that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securities, right to public assistance in case of old age. There are other provisions too, which mandates the state to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Right to equality as a Fundamental right further strengthen older persons. Social security has been made the concurrent responsibility of the central and state Governments.

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal Ministry responsible for welfare of the Senior Citizens. The National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) 1999, covers all concerns pertaining to the welfare of older persons and recognizes a person aged 60 years and above as a senior citizen. In pursuance of the NPOP, a National Council for Older Persons (NCOP) was constituted in 1999 under the Chairpersonship of the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment to oversee implementation of the Policy. An Inter-Ministerial Committee on Older Persons comprising twenty-two Ministries/ Departments, and headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is another coordination mechanism in implementation of the NPOP.

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was enacted in December 2007 to ensure need based maintenance for parents and senior citizens and their welfare. The Act provides for: Maintenance of Parents/ senior citizens by children/ relatives made obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals; Revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence by relatives; Penal provision for abandonment of senior citizens; Establishment of Old Age Homes for Indigent Senior Citizens; Adequate medical facilities and security for Senior Citizens.
The Ministry is implementing following schemes for the benefit of Senior Citizens:
·        An Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP) is being implemented since 1992 with the objective of improving the quality of life of senior citizens by providing basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and entertainment opportunities and by encouraging productive and active ageing through providing support for capacity building of Government/ Non Governmental Organizations/Panchayati Raj Institutions/ local bodies and the Community at large. Under the Scheme, financial assistance up to 90% of the project cost is provided to nongovernmental organizations for establishing and maintaining old age homes, day care centres and mobile medicare units. The Scheme has been revised w.e.f. 1.4.2008. Besides increase in amount of financial assistance for existing projects, several innovative projects have been added as being eligible for assistance under the Scheme.

·        A Non-Plan Scheme of Assistance to Panchayati Raj Institutions/ Voluntary Organisations/ Self Help Groups for Construction of Old Age Homes/ Multi Service Centres for Older Persons was started in 1996-97. However, the Scheme was not found attractive by implementing agencies and was discontinued at the end of the X Plan (2006-07). A new Scheme for giving assistance for Establishment of Old Age Homes for Indigent Senior Citizens is under formulation.

In addition Government is extending a number of concessions/facilities to aged persons after realising their special needs. These include, Income tax rebate up to an income of Rs. 2.50 lakh p.a; Higher rates of interest on saving schemes of senior citizens; Reservation of two seats for senior citizens in front row of the buses of the State Road Transport Undertakings; Some State Governments are giving fare concession to senior citizens in the State Road Transport Undertaking buses and are introducing Bus Models, which are convenient to the elderly; Separate queues for older persons in hospitals for registration and clinical examination; Faults/complaints of senior citizens are given priority by registering them under senior citizens category with VIP flag, which is a priority category; Senior citizens are allowed to register telephone connection under N-OYT Special Category, which is a priority category.
Indian Railways provide 30% fare concession in all Mail / Express includingRajdhani / Shatabadi / Jan Shatabadi trains for senior citizens aged 60 years and above. Indian Railways also have the facility of separate counters for Senior Citizens for purchase / booking / cancellation of tickets. Wheel Chairs for use of older persons are available at all junctions, District Headquarters and other important stations for the convenience of needy persons including the older persons. Ramps for wheel chairs movement are available at the entry to important stations. Specially designed coaches with provisions of space for wheel chairs, hand rail and specially designed toilet for handicapped persons have been introduced.

Indian Airlines is providing 50 per cent Senior Citizen Discount on Normal Economy Class fare for all domestic flights to Indian senior citizens who have completed the age of 65 years in the case of male senior citizens and 63 years in the case of female senior citizens subject to certain conditions. Air India is offering discount to senior citizens of 60 plus on flights to USA, UK and Europe. Further, Air India has now decided to reduce the age of 60 plus for discount on their domestic routes as well with immediate effect.

Under the Antyodaya Scheme, the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families which also include older persons are provided food grains at the rate of 35 kgsper family per month. The food grains are issued @ Rs.3/- per kg. for rice and Rs.2/- per kg. for wheat. The persons aged 60 years above from the BPL category were given priority for identification.Under the Annapoorna Scheme being implemented by the States/UT Administration, 10kgs. of food grains per beneficiary per month are provided free of cost to those senior citizens who remain uncovered under the old age pension scheme. Instructions to State Governments for giving priority to the Ration Card holders who are over 60 years of age in Fair Price Shops for issue of rations.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare launched National Programme for the Health Care of Elderly (NPHCE) during 11th Plan in order to address the health-related issues of the elderly. The programme was launched on the basis of recommendations made in the National Policy on Older Persons and State’s obligation under the Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & the Senior Citizens Act 2007. Main components of NPHCE during 11th Five Year Plan were- establishing 30 bedded Department of Geriatric in eight identified Regional Medical Institutions (Regional Geriatric Centres) in different parts of the country. Another component was providing dedicated health care facilities in District Hospitals, CHCsPHCs and Sub Centres in 100 identified districts of 21 States. Initially,100 districts were selected from 21 states for this programme in 11th Five Year Plan. 

During 2013-14, the following are proposed: Establishment of National Institute of Aging at AIIMS, New Delhi and Madras Medical College, Chennai; Continuation of programme activities in the existing 100 districts and eight Regional Geriatric Centres; Four new Regional Geriatric Centres and inclusion of more districts in a phased manner.
Department of Pensions and Pensioner Grievances has set up a Pension Portal to enable senior citizens to get information regarding the status of their application, the amount of pension, documents required, if any, etc. The Portal also provides for lodging of grievances. As per recommendation of the Sixth Pay Commission, additional pension are to be provided. Under the Old Age Pension Scheme, monthly pension is given at variable rates to the destitute old by various State Governments/UT Administrations. Courts in the country accord priority to cases involving older persons and ensure their expeditious disposal.
To cap all these efforts, Government of India has recently launched National Awards for Senior Citizens to recognise the efforts of eminent senior citizens, institutions in rendering distinguished services for the cause of elderly. These Vayoshreshtha Samman will be conferred in 13 categories every year.
"Like any other country ageing is a challenge and a problem. We need to make people fit and work- whatever the age. If they are working that solves half the problem. We have to improve their skill levels, education and health, that's the key as they are a new power for development”.

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