New Delhi: Every second elderly person in India is concerned about his or her social and financial security, a study conducted by Agewell Research and Advocacy Centre for the United Nations revealed.
According to the study, 51.9% respondents out of the 10,000 surveyed were not satisfied with the overall status of social security schemes for the elderly in India.
Findings of the study highlight that more one-fourth of the respondents (27%) depend on their children or close relatives for their financial needs, whereas 16% of the respondents were found to be dependent on others.
“Around 55.1% of the respondents reportedly claimed that there are no sufficient provisions for financial security of older people in India. Over 51.9% respondents reportedly agreed that the overall status of social security schemes for older persons in India is not satisfactory," the study findings said.
“While 58.7% of the respondents disagreed with the fact that old-age pension schemes are working well in India, over 36.9% respondents said that, in their opinion, disability benefit schemes, particularly for the elderly, are not satisfactory in India. Around 61% of the respondents said that they are not satisfied with old-age financial security schemes in India," the findings suggest.
Financial and social security are interlinked. Old-age social security is considered a family subject, as most people live with their children in old age. With rapid increase in population of older persons and a changing socio-economic scenario, issues concerning old people are now also being included in social security schemes.
Generally, India’s social security schemes cover initiatives for the elderly such as retirement pension, family pension, widow pension, old-age pension, health insurance and medical benefits, disability benefits and gratuity. Largely, the study found out that 77% of old men and 50% of old women are utilising some form of social security. However, 53% of the elderly find it difficult in utilizing the social security schemes and 79% found these are not sufficient to meet their basic needs. The majority of the elderly are illiterate and are partially or totally dependent on others for their economic needs.
"Government policies and our social norms are not at par so far as social security in old age is concerned. The condition of social security schemes is very depressing. The government must focus on social security schemes keeping in view the fast changing needs of the increasing population of older persons," said Himanshu Rath, founder of Agewell Foundation.
“It is observed that in spite of several social security schemes and social protection floors at different levels, most elderly people, particularly older people above 80, are not capable enough to avail benefits due to many hindrances, including lack of transportation facilities, lack of caregivers and also lack of awareness about the schemes being run for the well-being of older persons," Rath said.
On the basis of survey findings and observations, the Agewell Foundation has recommended the government to ensure maximum coverage under existing and/or new social security schemes. The organization has recommended that there should be dedicated healthcare facilities, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas for the elderly. Old-age pension should be benchmarked to the increasing cost of living and the provisions for tax incentives for younger people should be tied to looking after dependent senior citizens. The foundation has also recommended that there should be provisions for a dependent ageing parent allowance for employees in the government sector. There should be some kind of financial incentive for setting up a network of caregivers for the elderly at the block level to assist older persons living alone.