- The foundation of the new policy, known as the “National Policy for Senior Citizens 2011” is based on several factors. These include the demographic explosion among the elderly, the changing economy and social milieu, advancement in medical research, science and technology and high levels of destitution among the elderly rural poor (51 million elderly live below the poverty line). A higher proportion of elderly women than men experience loneliness and are dependent on children. Social deprivations and exclusion, privatization of health services and changing pattern of morbidity affect the elderly. All those of 60 years and above are senior citizens. This policy addresses issues concerning senior citizens living in urban and rural areas, special needs of the “oldest old? and older women.
- In principle the policy values an age integrated society. It will endeavour to strengthen integration between generations, facilitate interaction between the old and the young as well as strengthen bonds between different age groups. It believes in the development of a formal and informal social support system, so that the capacity of the family to take care of senior citizens is strengthened and they continue to live in the family. The policy seeks to reach out in particular to the bulk of senior citizens living in rural areas who are dependent on family bonds and intergenerational understanding and support.
Focus of the policy
- Mainstream senior citizens, especially older women, and bring their concerns into the national development debate with priority to implement mechanisms already set by governments and supported by civil society and senior citizens associations. Support promotion and establishment of senior citizens associations, especially amongst women.
- Promote the concept of “Ageing in Place? or ageing in own home, housing, income security and homecare services, old age pension and access to healthcare insurance schemes and other programmes and services to facilitate and sustain dignity in old age. The thrust of the policy would be preventive rather than cure.
- The policy will consider institutional care as the last resort. It recognises that care of senior citizens has to remain vested in the family which would partner the community, government and the private sector.
- Being a signatory to the Madrid Plan of Action and Barrier Free Framework it will work towards an inclusive, barrier - free and age -friendly society.
- Recognise that senior citizens are a valuable resource for the country and create an environment that provides them with equal opportunities, protects their rights and enables their full participation in society. Towards achievement of this directive, the policy visualises that the states will extend their support for senior citizens living below the poverty line in urban and rural areas and ensure their social security, healthcare, shelter and welfare. It will protect them from abuse and exploitation so that the quality of their lives improves.
- Long term savings instruments and credit activities will be promoted to reach both rural and urban areas. It will be necessary for the contributors to feel assured that the payments at the end of the stipulated period are attractive enough to take care of the likely erosion in purchasing power.
- Employment in income generating activities after superannuation will be encouraged.
- Support and assist organisations that provide counselling, career guidance and training services.
- States will be advised to implement the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 and set up Tribunals so that elderly parents unable to maintain themselves are not abandoned and neglected.
- States will set up homes with assisted living facilities for abandoned senior citizens in every district of the country and there will be adequate budgetary support.
Areas of intervention
The concerned ministries at central and state level as mentioned in the “Implementation Section? would implement the policy and take necessary steps for senior citizens as under:
Income security in old age
A major intervention required in old age relates to financial in security as more than two third of the elderly live below the poverty line.
It would increase with age uniformly across the country.
Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme
- Old age pension scheme would cover all senior citizens living below the poverty line.
- Rate of monthly pension would be raised to Rs.1000 per month per person and revised at intervals to prevent its deflation due to higher cost of purchasing.
- The “oldest old? would be covered under Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS). They would be provided additional pension in case of disability, loss of adult children and concomitant responsibility for grandchildren and women. This would be reviewed every five years.
Public Distribution System
- The public distribution system would reach out to cover all senior citizens living below the poverty line.
- Taxation policies would reflect sensitivity to the financial problems of senior citizens which accelerate due to very high costs of medical and nursing care, transportation and support services needed at homes.
- Loans at reasonable rates of Interest would be offered to senior citizens to start small businesses. Microfinance for senior citizens would be supported through suitable guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India
With advancing age, senior citizens have to cope with health and associated problems some of which may be chronic, of a multiple nature, require constant attention and carry the risk of disability and consequent loss of autonomy. Some health problems, especially when accompanied by impaired functional capacity require long term management of illness and nursing care.
- Healthcare needs of senior citizens will be given high priority. The goal would be good, affordable health service, heavily subsidized for the poor and a graded system of user charges for others. It would have a judicious mix of public health services, health insurance, health services provided by not – for - profit organizations including trusts and charities, and private medical care. While the first of these will need to be promoted by the State, the third category given some assistance, concessions and relief and the fourth encouraged and subjected to some degree of regulation, preferably by an association of providers of private care.
- The basic structure of public healthcare would be through primary healthcare. It would be strengthened and oriented to meet the health needs of senior citizens. Preventive, curative, restorative and rehabilitative services will be expanded and strengthened and geriatric care facilities provided at secondary and tertiary levels. This will imply much larger public sector outlays, proper distribution of services in rural and urban areas, and much better health administration and delivery systems. Geriatric services for all age groups above 60 ---preventive, curative, rehabilitative health care will be provided. The policy will strive to create a tiered national level geriatric healthcare with focus on outpatient day care, palliative care, rehabilitation care and respite care.
- Twice in a year the PHC nurse or the ASHA will conduct a special screening of the 80+ population of villages and urban areas and public/ private partnerships will be worked out for geriatric and palliative health care in rural areas recognizing the increase of non – communicable diseases (NCD) in the country.
- Efforts would be made to strengthen the family system so that it continues to play the role of primary care giver in old age. This would be done by sensitizing younger generations and by providing tax incentives for those taking care of the older members.
- Development of health insurance will be given priority to cater to the needs of different income segments of the population with provision for varying contributions and benefits. Packages catering to the lower income groups will be entitled to state subsidy. Concessions and relief will be given to health insurance to enlarge the coverage base and make it affordable. Universal application of health insurance – RSBY (Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana) will be promoted in all districts and senior citizens will be included in the coverage. Specific policies will be worked out for healthcare insurance of senior citizens.
- From an early age citizens will be encouraged to contribute to a government created healthcare fund that will help in meeting the increased expenses on health care after retirement. It will also pay for the health insurance premium in higher socio economic segments.
- Special programmes will be developed to increase awareness on mental health and for early detection and care of those with Dementia and Alzheimer‟s disease.
- Restoration of vision and eyesight of senior citizens will be an integral part of the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB).
- Use of science and technology such as web based services and devices for the wellbeing and safety of Senior citizens will be encouraged and expanded to under - serviced areas.
- National and regional institutes of ageing will be set up to promote geriatric health care. Adequate budgetary support will be provided to these institutes and a cadre of geriatric health care specialists created including professionally trained caregivers to provide care to the elderly at affordable prices.
- The current National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE) being implemented in would be expanded immediately and, in partnership with civil society organizations, scaled up to all districts of the country.
- Public private partnership models will be developed wherever possible to implement health care of the elderly.
- Services of mobile health clinics would be made available through PHCs or a subsidy would be granted to NGOs who offer such services.
- Health Insurance cover would be provided to all senior citizens through public funded schemes, especially those over 80 years who do not pay income tax.
- Hospices and palliative care of the terminally ill would be provided in all district hospitals and the Indian protocol on palliative care will be disseminated to all doctors and medical professionals.
- Recognize gender based attitudes towards health and develop programmes for regular health checkups especially for older women who tend to neglect their problems
Safety and Security
Provision would be made for stringent punishment for abuse of the elderly.
- Abuse of the elderly and crimes against senior citizens especially widows and those living alone and disabled would be tackled by community awareness and policing.
- Police would be directed to keep a friendly vigil and monitor programmes which will include a comprehensive plan for security of senior citizens whether living alone or as couples. They would also promote mechanisms for interaction of the elderly with neighborhood associations and enrolment in special programmes in urban and rural areas.
- Protective services would be established and linked to help lines , legal aid and other measures
Shelter is a basic human need. The stock of housing for different income segments will be increased. Ten percent of housing schemes for urban and rural lower income segments will be earmarked for senior citizens. This will include the Indira Awas Yojana and other schemes of the government.
- Age friendly, barrier - free access will be created in buses and bus stations, railways and railway stations, airports and bus transportation within the airports, banks, hospitals, parks, places of worship, cinema halls, shopping malls and other public places that senior citizens and the disabled frequent.
- Develop housing complexes for single older men and women, and for those with need for specialized care in cities, towns and rural areas.
- Promote age friendly facilities and standards of universal design by Bureau of Indian Standards.
- Since a multi - purpose centre is a necessity for social interaction of senior citizens, housing colonies would reserve sites for establishing such centres. Segregation of senior citizens in housing colonies would be discouraged and their integration into the community supported.
- Senior citizens will be given loans for purchase of houses as well as for major repairs, with easy repayment schedules
- The policy will promote measures to create avenues for continuity in employment and/or post retirement opportunities.
- Directorate of Employment would be created to enable seniors find re-employment.
- The age of retirement would be reviewed by the Ministry due to increasing longevity
- A welfare fund for senior citizens will be set up by the government and revenue generated through asocial security cess. The revenue generated from this would be allocated to the states in proportion to their share of senior citizens. States may also create similar funds.
- Non-institutional services by voluntary organizations will be promoted and assisted to strengthen the capacity of senior citizens and their families to deal with problems of the ageing.
- All senior citizens, especially widows, single women and the oldest old would be eligible for all schemes of government. They would be provided universal identity under the Aadhar scheme on priority.
- Larger budgetary allocations would be earmarked to pay attention to the special needs of rural and urban senior citizens living below the poverty line.
Establishment of National Council for Senior Citizens
A National Council for Senior Citizens, headed by the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment will be constituted by the Ministry. With tenure of five years, the Council will monitor the implementation of the policy and advise the government on concerns of senior citizens. A similar body would be established in every state with the concerned minister heading the State Council for Senior Citizens.
- The Council would include representatives of relevant central ministries, the Planning Commission and ten states by rotation.
- Representatives of senior citizens associations from every state and Union Territory.
- Representatives of NGOs, academia, media and experts on ageing. The council would meet once in six months.
Responsibility for Implementation
- The Ministries of Home Affairs, Health & Family Welfare, Rural Development, Urban Development, Youth Affairs & Sports, Railways, Science & Technology, Statistics & Programme Implementation, Labour, Panchayat Raj and Departments of Elementary Education & Literacy, Secondary & Higher Education, Road Transport & Highways, Public Enterprises, Revenue, Women & Child Development, Information Technology and Personnel & Training will setup necessary mechanism for implementation of the policy. A five - year perspective Plan and annual plans setting targets and financial allocations will be prepared by each Ministry/ Department. The annual report of these Ministries/ Departments will indicate progress achieved during the year. This will enable monitoring by the designated authority
For More Information: National Policy on Senior Citizens 2011 (248KB)
Source: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India