A two-day conference in the Capital this month will focus on effective implementation of welfare programmes for the rapidly increasing elderly population

Issues concerning senior citizens in the country will be the focus of a national conference on ageing to be held in the Capital on November 6 and 7. The meet will result in a plan of action for more effective implementation of various programmes for the welfare of elderly people.

The objective of the meet is to sensitise all stakeholders on ageing issues, review the various interventions of the Centre, State governments, local administrations, non-governmental organisations and the civil society with a focus on best practices.

The population of senior citizens in the country is growing fast due to general improvement in the standard of living and availability of better health care facilities. This has resulted in consequential challenges related to ageing which need to be addressed on a very urgent basis. The main issues include protection of life and property, health care, financial security, protection against ill-treatment, independent and productive living and care and support for those in need, according to the officials of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

A latest report released by the United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge India to mark the International Day of Older Persons — observed on October 1 — suggests that India had 90 million elderly persons in 2011 which is expected to increase to 173 million by 2026. Of the 90 million seniors, 30 million were living alone and 90 per cent of them work for livelihood.

The report also says that the number of elderly women is more than elderly men and nearly three out of five single older women are very poor and two out of three rural elderly women are fully dependent. Additionally, there is an increasing proportion of elderly at 80 plus ages and is more pronounced among women.

The highlight of the national-level conference is to review the implementation of the salient provisions of the National Policy on Older Persons, 1999 and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 that has drawn sharp criticism for its poor implementation. The other issues that would be deliberated upon include social security, health care, family and community care and special elderly groups such as older old, rural elderly, widows, persons with disabilities, and those suffering from Alzheimer and dementia.

Based on the recommendations of each thematic session, a plan of action would be drawn up for more effective implementation of various programmes for the welfare of senior citizens. The financial and social security concerns include pensions, income and employment opportunities for senior citizens, and protection and safety. The issues to be taken up for discussion under health care are public health care system, mental health including dementia, health care needs of persons of 80 years and above, disabled and home bound, training of health care providers and private health care and insurance.

Role of the media, family care, institutional care and value education are the topics that would be discussed under the family and community care category, while feminisation of ageing and special vulnerable groups like migrants, displaced, and marginalised will be take up under special elderly groups.

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