The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on everyone. However, the elderly who're already facing the harshness of life felt it acutely. The pandemic also forced everyone to think about and to promote the idea of a 'silver economy' that would lead to the establishment of residential and infrastructure facilities of different grades for senior citizens for a dignified and safe experience.
As India's elderly population that was pegged at 104 million in 2011 is expected to triple to 300 million by 2050, the country needs to recognise senior care as a sector.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is considering the recommendations of an expert group that has asked to make senior care both economically viable and an opportunity for economic development. The group stressed on the need to recognise senior care as a sector that has appropriate regulations and standards, tax structures, policy support and subsidised financing as well as appropriate governance mechanisms.
The group has also recommended flexible models for careers that would encourage senior citizens to work longer. Re-skilling and adoption of smart work practices are also part of the recommendations.
Studies have shown that retirees tend to go into a shell, aggravating their health concerns. Keeping a vast population as India's senior citizens healthy would also be a challenging task for the government. Tapping the pool of retirees would enhance India's workforce with skilled and experienced workers. However, the labour format would require alteration if the senior citizens are to be brought back into the fold.
States could allocate funds and build capacity to take care of seniors from all classes as part of senior care projects. From financial security to shelter and re-skilling, the ministry is considering reports of expert groups. An inter-ministerial panel would soon approve projects that can be implemented under the Senior Citizen Welfare Fund.
Not only the government, private players would also be required to enhance senior-specific services. Financing costs could be lowered for such players for affordable senior care projects and senior living. Private players would be encouraged to participate more if expenses on senior care solutions are expected from taxes.
For senior living projects, land could be made available at lower than market prices with option for staggered payments and lower interest. This would keep cost of living arrangements low.
The government also launched the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) campaign in order to offer support to senior citizens and ensure easy access to products and services for them.
As India's senior population continues to grow, it remains to be seen if it would find mention on FM Nirmala Sitharaman's budget.