Monday, April 2, 2012

Women take the lead in India's grey march

Women take the lead in India's grey march

NEW DELHI: Now, a majority of India's elderly are women. The Registrar General of India's (RGI) latest data from the Sample Registration System (SRS), 2010, has confirmed feminization of India's elderly. The data sent to the Union health ministry on Saturday shows that the percentage of women in the age group of 60 years and above is higher in 17 out of the 20 large states. It is as high as nearly 12.6% in Kerala, Maharashtra (10%), Himachal Pradeshand Tamil Nadu ((10.3%).

Only three states - Assam, Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir - have more elderly men than women.

The difference between percentage of elderly women against 60+ men is most acute in states likeAndhra Pradesh (8.4 women against 7.1 men), Chhattisgarh (7.1 against 5.9), Gujarat (8.3 against 6.8), Haryana (6.9 against 5.3), Maharashtra (9.7 against 8.7), Punjab (9.4 against 8.4) and Rajasthan (7.4 against 6.2). The Union health ministry expects 51% of the elderly population will be women by 2016.

Overall, nearly 7.5% of India's population is aged 60 years and above. In rural India, 7.5% of the population is above 60, and the corresponding figure is 7% urban areas.

Kerala (11.8), Himachal Pradesh (10.1%) and Tamil Nadu (10%) have the highest percentage of elderly in the country, followed by Maharashtra (9.2), Punjab (8.9) and Odisha (8.7). Jharkhand(5.7), Assam (5.5) and Delhi (5.7) record the lowest percentage of geriatrics.

The SRS report says, "On account of better education, health facilities and increase in life expectancy, the percentage of elderly population (60+) has gone up from 6% to 7%." A recent Planning Commission report had said one in every four among India's elderly population are depressed, one in three suffer from arthritis, while one in five cannot hear. While one in three suffer from hypertension in rural India and one in two in urban areas, almost half have poor vision. Around one in 10 experience a fall that results in fracture, while two in five are anemic. One in 10 in rural India and two in five in urban suffer from diabetes, and about 31% suffer from bowel disorders.

"The elderly population will increase to 12% of the total population by 2025, 10% of which would be bedridden, requiring utmost care. India will soon become home to the second largest number of older people in the world. The challenges are unique with this population. A majority (80%) of them is in the rural areas thus making service delivery a challenge, feminization of the elderly population and 30% of the elderly are below poverty line," said an internal ministry note.

According to the 2006 World Population Prospects, the number of Indians aged above 80 will increase more than six times from existing 78 lakh to about 5.14 crore by 2059. At present, 20% of this category in India suffers from Alzheimer's disease. The 65+ population in the country is likely to quadruple from 6.4 crore in 2005 to 23.9 crore, and the 60+ to go up from from 8.4 crore to 33.5 crore in the next 43 years.

UN estimates say the global population of 60 years and older will more than double - from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion in 2025.

The ministry's revised National Programme for the Healthcare of the Elderly ( NPHCE) expects to have 20 institutions with capacity to produce 40 post-graduates in MD in geriatric medicine per year, additional 6,400 beds in district hospitals and 1,000 beds in medical colleges for the elderly by 2017. It also envisages setting up geriatric clinics in OPD and physiotherapy units in 640 district hospitals and more than 2,000 geriatric clinics in community and primary health centres.

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