In a recent collaborative effort between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) India and the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), the India Ageing Report 2023 has been unveiled. This comprehensive report sheds light on the profound demographic shifts occurring within India, specifically focusing on the country’s burgeoning elderly population.  According to the report, the population above 60 years will double from 10.5% or 14.9 crore (as on July 1, 2022) to 20.8% or 34.7 crore by 2050. With one in five individuals set to be a senior citizen, there will be implications for health, economy, and society.

Key Highlights of the Report

Demographic Trends: India’s elderly population is witnessing an unprecedented surge with a decadal growth rate of 41%. By 2050, it is anticipated that over 20% of India’s population will be elderly. An eye-opening projection indicates that the elderly population in India will outstrip the population of children (0 to 15 years old) by 2046. Additionally, the number of individuals aged 80 and above is expected to skyrocket by approximately 279% between 2022 and 2050.

Higher Life Expectancy of Women: An intriguing finding reveals that women enjoy a longer life expectancy at ages 60 and 80 compared to men, with notable variations among different states and territories. For instance, in Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, women aged 60 can expect to live 23 and 22 more years, respectively—four years longer than their male counterparts. This stands in contrast to the national average differential of only 1.5 years.

Poverty and Well-being: The report highlights a pressing concern—more than 40% of India’s elderly population falls into the poorest wealth quintile. Poverty among the elderly significantly impacts their quality of life and access to healthcare. Notably, a substantial proportion of elderly individuals, particularly women, find themselves living without any income, further intensifying challenges related to their well-being and healthcare utilization.

Regional Variations: The elderly population’s distribution and growth rates vary significantly among states. States in the southern region and select northern states such as Himachal Pradesh and Punjab reported a higher share of the elderly population compared to the national average in 2021. This gap is projected to widen by 2036, emphasizing the need for region-specific strategies.

Sex Ratio of the Elderly Population: Over the years, the sex ratio among the elderly has displayed an upward trajectory, contrasting with the stagnant ratio in the general population. While the sex ratio among the elderly increased across India between 2011 and 2021, there were exceptions in Union Territories and western India. Notably, regions like central India witnessed a significant shift, where the sex ratio increased from 973 in 2011 to 1,053 in 2021, indicating that women outperformed men in survival after the age of 60 during the past decade.

Low Awareness of Social Security Schemes: One of the challenges illuminated in the report is the lack of awareness among the elderly regarding social security schemes tailored for them. Approximately 55% are aware of the old-age pension scheme (IGNOAPS), while awareness of other schemes remains significantly lower.

Concerns and Challenges: Poverty among the elderly, particularly women, emerges as a prominent challenge. The report underscores that older women are more likely to be widowed, living alone, and fully dependent on family support, further emphasizing the gendered nature of elderly poverty. Additionally, the feminization and ruralization of the older population pose significant challenges.

Recommendations of the Report:

  • Enhance data collection efforts by incorporating pertinent questions related to the elderly in national surveys to facilitate informed policymaking.
  • Elevate awareness regarding existing schemes and services for older individuals while strengthening the regulatory oversight of Old Age Homes.
  • Promote and support multigenerational households through policy initiatives that facilitate this living arrangement.
  • Emphasize in situ (at-home) aging by establishing short-term care facilities and enhancing support for elderly individuals residing with their families.

About the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): UNFPA, a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, operates as a sexual and reproductive health agency. Its mandate is established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). UNFPA operates solely on voluntary contributions from governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, foundations, and individuals.

In conclusion, India’s demographic landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, with the elderly population emerging as a significant demographic group. The India Ageing Report 2023 not only highlights these demographic trends but also underscores the challenges and offers valuable recommendations to ensure the well-being and dignity of India’s elderly citizens in the years to come. As India’s elderly population is set to double by 2050, comprehensive and inclusive policies are imperative to address the multifaceted needs of this growing segment of the population.

Photo Credits: Unsplash/Pranav Jain

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