The growing number of elderly people in India has prompted the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to have research projects in the field of ageing and health. The organisation has tied-up with the Sweden-based Swedish Research Council for Health Working Life and Welfare with plans to develop affordable and appropriate innovative assistive technology for the disabled elderly as well as methods of home-based care interventions. It also plans to design models of home-based care for the elderly people.
Welcoming ICMR’s decision, Mumbai geriatrician Dr Leena Ganguly said, “In India, the focus of health care has been generally on infectious diseases and not on communicable diseases especially geriatric care. Much more awareness and focus is required for geriatric care and problems faced by them.”
She said even in terms of medical education, geriatric care is not given much importance. “Paediatric care, cardiac care among others is still preferred area of specialisation in medical education. We need more health-care professionals in geriatric care. The need for trained geriatric care providers, but rues that as the field is not very financially viable, it fails to attract many students,” added Ganguly.
As per the latest report from HelpAge India, currently, India has over 100 million citizens aged 60 and above. The need for elderly care in India is similar to the global scenario with some pertinent factors to India like a changing family system, a rural urban divide, gender based beliefs, and a lack of facilities that needs to be addressed.
“In India, there is no integrated sources and medical care under one roof for geriatric care. Often elderly people have to go through different process for treatments, medications etc and it is cumbersome for them to run around. A well-planned provision is required as there is rise in number of people aging,” Dr Alka Subramaniam, psychiatrist at BYL Nair hospital.
She also said city infrastructure needs to be senior citizen friendly. “You cannot restrict senior citizens to stay at home and not travel, visit theatres, trains etc. Countries other than India have special ramps made for elderly so that they can go wherever they wish too.”
According to geriatric experts, with India being the second highest population of elderly people in the world, it is projected that by 2020, the elderly population in the country will rise to 12%.
Sailesh Mishra, founder of Silver Innings – an NGO for senior citizens, said, “Rising in the number of elderly people in the country brings concern on geriatric care. The most neglected sector in ageing is dementia and Alzheimer’s. Dementia / Alzheimer’s are something which family and people are ashamed to confess. Because of diabetes and blood pressure, getting dementia or Alzheimer’s is becoming common. One should not get scared.”