In support of elders

Jane Barratt

Jane Barratt  

Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, has over 30 years’ experience in health, community and aged care. On a visit to Chennai recently, she emphasised on ageing gracefully and spending the twilight years meaningfully. R. Sujatha caught up with her during her discussions with senior citizens.

Though India has a relatively young population, even in this country the percentage of those over 65 years will go up from 5.3 per cent in 2010 to 14.5 per cent in 2050. The percentage of those above 85 years is expected to go up from 0.8 to 3.1, says Jane Barratt. “We are not sure what living in dignity is but we know what living without dignity is. We never say a child’s function increases. We say they are learning to walk. But in older people we say their function decreases.”

As the environment impacts a person’s psychological well being, it is important to have friendly cities.

The government should ensure that the elders receive regular health check up. Dr.Barratt says 81 per cent of older people have at least one chronic condition, and 33 per cent have three or more such conditions.

Regular check up prevents chronic diseases in 67 per cent of the elderly.

The elders could be a voice for change, celebrate growing older and value the experience bestowed by age. “My mother is 81 and lives in Australia. I live in Canada. She is my best friend and I talk to her twice a day now.” “The family structure is changing and not disintegrating,” she says and dispels as myth that the ageing population lives only in developed countries or that the elderly are frail, not contributing to society and thus an economic burden.

The older generation’s rich experience could be used to improve the lives of future generations, she explains.

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