Senior citizens in India face a number of challenges, but the situation is worse in case of elderly women.
Old women who are single, abandoned or widowed face multiple barriers due to illiteracy, malnourishment, abuse, ill-health, lack of housing and exclusion from economic benefits, said Rekha Mody, the founder-president of NGO Stree Shakti.
“Elderly women face bias and discrimination throughout their life and most of the time they do not raise their voices against it,” she said during the release of the research document, “Innovative Practice For Care of Elderly Women in India,” prepared by Stree Shakti in association with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The group has recommended a panel for aged women within the National Commission for Women (NCW) to create legal awareness, free travel passes, inclusion of single women in welfare schemes, mandatory provision of healthcare for elderly women, universal pension scheme, tax concessions, and reform and developing post-retirement skills.
According to a 2008 UNDP study, 65 per cent of widows in India are over 60 years old. Of these, only 28 per cent are eligible for pension. However, only 11 per cent actually receive it.
Also in the Global Age Watch Index 2014, India ranks 71 among 96 countries in elderly (60 years plus) care. India has the second highest population of elderly in the world, projected to rise to 12 per cent of the total population by 2020.
Eight per cent of the elderly are in rural areas, with 40 per cent below the poverty line and over 73 per cent illiterate. Worse, 90 per cent have no social security cover and 50 per cent of bedridden days are ascribed to elderly patients.
The research study, The Global Report on Ageing in the 21st Century (UNFPA and HelpAge International 2012), reinforces the observation that in India older persons, particularly older women, experience multiple discriminations, including limited access to jobs and health care, abuse, denial of the right to own and inherit property and lack of minimum basic income and social security.
“This document has been prepared to facilitate awareness and exchange of information for mutual learning on the subject among different stakeholders and effective replication of such innovative ideas,” said Ms. Mody.