Topic: General Studies 1,2:
- Social empowerment
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Pandemic and Older People
Context: The most vulnerable persons during the COVID pandemic are the elderly
Do You Know?
- Globally, the population aged 65 and over is growing faster than other age groups.
- In 2018, for the first time in history, people aged 65 (680.94 million) or above outnumbered children under 5 years (678.87 million)
- The number of persons aged 80 years or over is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.
Difficulties faced by Older people due to COVID-19 Pandemic
- High Vulnerability to COVID-19 mortality: If infected, the odds of survival for older people are the lowest.
- Danger of being neglected: When isolated to save them from infection, they are likely to suffer from neglect — from lack of care and loneliness.
- Denied healthcare for other diseases: Outpatient treatment of nearly all major non-communicable diseases has been severely affected due to COVID care. Older people seem to be missing out on treatment for illnesses.
- Vulnerable to Mental ill-health problems: Lack of access to healthcare services could aggravate physical disabilities, hinder the effective management of communicable diseases and lead to mental ill-health problems amongst the elderly.
- Dependence on Children/ others: The precarious nature of economic work of older persons and inadequate salaries means that more than 80% of such people in the workforce are either partially or fully dependent on others, who are anyway facing difficult circumstances
- Technology Challenges: Internet play an important role in maintaining access to essential care, services etc. In India, only 7% of older people have smartphones. The literacy rate among this segment is also low, further limiting access to technology and important information.
- Inadequate Government Support: In its first relief package, the government announced a one-off payment of Rs 1,000 and an increase in the pension for 30 million widows and senior citizens. But this will reach only to about 20% of the older people. There was no support for senior citizens in the second relief package.
- Healthcare schemes like the Ayushman Bharat Yojana should have special provisions for the elderly.
- Tele-health and mobile home-based health care check-ups should be conducted for them.
- Direct subsidies to pensioners, especially in healthcare matters, can also help them tide over these difficult times.
- Older people have an invaluable role to play in our collective future. We must keep older people engaged, not shut them out to protect their bodies from the virus.