New Delhi: Om Prakash Purohit and his wife are in late 60s. They worked as agricultural labourers in Madhya Pradesh throughout their working life. Abandoned by their children now, they do not even have money to afford any medicine for themselves.
Mr Purohit said, “Me and my wife are going through a very tough time. We have no regular source of income except paltry old-age pension from the government. Our children are settled in big cities and hardly support us financially. Due to poor financial condition, I cannot afford medicines.”
In India, more than half of the population of older persons, particularly in rural areas, continue to suffer from financial problems leading to a miserable situation in old age and about two-third of the older people have to depend on others for their day-to-day maintenance.
The findings are based on a nationwide survey conducted by Agewell Foundation that interviewed a random sample of 15,000 people over the age of 60 years.
The study reveals how lack of sensitive schemes for senior citizens and their exploitation by the younger members of the family have led the elderly to suffer from medical, social and financial problems, despite a high net-worth.
“46.4 per cent elderly respondents claimed that their net-worth value has increased remarkably in their old age, but they continue to suffer due to the lack of elderly sensitive schemes,” it states.
The study points out how with high net-worth value, older persons have higher purchasing power, but do not get an opportunity to use it to their discretion, with younger family members often manipulating their decisions.
“That is why in spite of major role and active participation of older persons in country’s economy, they are still considered as negligible consumers in comparison to the younger generation,” it says.
65 per cent of older persons undergo financial crisis and they are totally dependent on others for all their financial requirements.
“Most of them are not in a position to earn their livelihood. Their savings, if any, are not enough to meet their day to day, particularly the medical expenses,” the study says.
The study also notes that only 35 per cent of old people are financially independent owing to their savings or properties they have inherited, besides pension which becomes a major source of income. However, often their families are seen to “exploit them due to their vulnerability.”
“Financially insecure old people expect social security, free healthcare and subsidies, so that they can lead a comfortable life in old age. Those with sound financial health look forward to risk-free investment schemes, so that they can earn good returns to meet financial needs in old age,” says Himanshu Rath, founder of Agewell Foundation.
The study also highlights the immediate steps that are required to help the elderly population in the country.
It states that they must be provided coverage under existing and/or new social security schemes, life insurance for more years for financial security in old age, medical insurance to meet increasing medical expenses in comparatively longer old age among others.
Other facilities that must be provided include covering of properties, movable or immovable under general insurance schemes, increased awareness about financial planning, dedicated healthcare facilities, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas and government sponsored provisions for financial security of old people.