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Silver Economy: Challenges & Opportunities

  • IASbaba
  • October 15, 2021
  • 0
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SOCIETY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 1,2:

  • Social empowerment 
  • Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections 

Silver Economy: Challenges & Opportunities

Context: India’s elderly population is on the rise, and as per surveys, the share of elders, as a percentage of the total population in the country, is expected to increase from around 8.6% in 2011 to almost 12.5% by 2026, and surpass 19.5% by 2050. 

The pandemic has brought into the open the gaps in India’s health policy, programme implementation, infrastructure and support systems for the elderly, who have been the most vulnerable to the virus. Given this sharp rise there is an urgent need to create a more robust eldercare ecosystem in India, especially in the post-COVID phase. 

Globally, the average life expectancy at birth for males and females was 45.5 and 48.5 respectively in 1950. It has steadily improved to 68.5 and 73.3 in 2015, with India being no exception. Two-thirds of this segment live in developing countries. Ageing, together with falling fertility rates, has profoundly impacted areas of resources, healthcare and insurance. Similar effects can be observed in the familial, psycho-social and life satisfaction indices. As a result, society, in general, will be forced to abandon some of the conventions and accept a few others as the new normal.

In developing countries, the extended lifespan of people beyond 65 years strains the conventional family support system – which is transforming. The diminished family structure often develops cracks in its financial planning with an additional cost centre for eldercare emerging. On the healthcare side, increasing utilisation and consumption of medical facilities, products and supportive devices increase pressure on infrastructure.

Definition of the Silver Economy

  • The silver economy is most often defined as a market or economy of seniors and covers basically all economic activities aiming to meet the needs of an ageing population.
  • The social meaning of the silver economy consists in meeting the needs and aspirations of the ageing population, respecting both the need for further participation in social life, as well as the weakness of the elderly (requiring compensation and support).
  • The economic meaning of the concept of silver economy consists in showing benefits which are connected with demand factors on the part of seniors, i.e. purchasing power and consumption (with significant potential for growth), and also supply-side factors represented by them (longer work, higher qualifications, experience and life stability).

The Aged in India

  • In India, urbanisation and rural-to-urban migration have speeded up the deconstruction of the old joint family systems into nuclear family units. A 2019 World Bank study has estimated that 34 per cent of the population is now urban – a massive decadal jump from 26 per cent in 2001. This trend adversely affects the safety net that was available to the old in the form of shared responsibility and resources.
  • Micro family units not only reduce their member size but also the physical space. Further, if there are relocation and rehabilitation issues, the Life Satisfaction Quotient yardstick can easily fall by few notches. Factors like closeness to the family, financial security and familiar surroundings are known to improve life satisfaction.  
  • As a trend, the golden age of a person’s life is beset with obligations to pay for children’s studies, mortgages and similar long-term expenses. With an advanced age (65+) component added, the fixed income family budget collapses. This has a serious impact on the Adult age (45+) future planning and security. 
  • With longer life, much of the savings and other resources of the senior people diminish – pensioners being an exception. NITI Ayog has estimated that only 8% of the working population is in the organized sector and the rest accounts for the informal sector. To finance the increasing needs of the elderly, viable financial instruments must be introduced in the market.

The government is exploring various ways to promote the idea of silver economy. 

Budgetary Allocation: 

  • An initial sum of 100 crore rupees has been allocated for evaluating and promoting the Silver Economy in India out of which nearly Rs. 25 crore has been assigned for use in FY2021-22. 
  • Initial estimations suggest that at present the Silver Economy is worth approximately 73,082 crore rupees.

Elderly Line 14567: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment dedicated the Elderly Line 14567 to the Nation on the occasion of International Day of Older Persons: 1st October

Senior Aging Growth Engine or SAGE

  • A scheme has been launched to promote private enterprises that bring out innovation in products and processes for the benefit of the elders. 
  • This project will identify, evaluate, verify and aggregate the needs of elder persons to deliver products, solutions and services. 
  • One of the selected start-ups, Neomotion, has come up with a “no transfer” accessibility solution where a user will be able to attach the wheelchair to a motorbike and travel. Newnara’s “Indoknee” offers lightweight, unhindered corrective support, Flexmo a wearable hip guard and Ducere smart insoles for fall prevention. 
  • Another start-up, Avyantra, is working to deliver an automated medical device for home dialysis. Once the requisite approvals for using the technology come, this could make life easier for those struggling with chronic kidney failure.
  • “Life Circle” offers subscription-based Home Healthcare Services for the elderly. There is Mediyatra that seeks to make travel more accessible for the elderly patients and people with disabilities and Primate Healthtech that is focussed on accessible diagnostics for early detection of chronic diseases. For the travel loving elderly, there is KareVoyage.

SACRED

  • Senior Able Citizens for Re-Employment in Dignity will connect the senior citizens with job providers in the private sector. 

Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) Wave-1,India Report

  • LASI will provide an evidence base for national and state level programmes and policies for elderly population. 
  • A unique feature of LASI is the coverage of comprehensive biomarkers. 
  • The LASI, Wave 1 covered a baseline sample of 72,250 individuals aged 45 and above and their spouses including 31,464 elderly persons aged 60 and above and 6,749 oldest-old persons aged 75 and above from all States and Union Territories (UTs) of India (excluding Sikkim).
  • It is India’s first and the world’s largest ever survey that provides a longitudinal database for designing policies and programmes for the older population.
  • The evidence from LASI will be used to further strengthen and broaden the scope of National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly. 
  • It will also help in establishing a range of preventive and health care programmes for older population and most vulnerable among them.

Quality of Life for Elderly Index 

  • The Index has been created by the Institute for Competitiveness at the request of EAC-PM and it sheds light on an issue often not mentioned- problems faced by the elderly and identifies the regional patterns of ageing across Indian States and assesses the overall ageing situation in India. 
  • The Index framework includes:
    • Four pillars: Financial Well-being, Social Well-being, Health System and Income Security, and 
    • Eight sub-pillars: Economic Empowerment, Educational Attainment & Employment, Social Status, Physical Security, Basic Health, Psychological Wellbeing, Social Security and Enabling Environment.

The Way Forward

  1. Phased-in retirement: Phased-in retirement entails a scheme whereby older workers could choose to work fewer hours yet remain longer in the labour force, including after they retire. This allows continuity in tax revenues and reduced expenditure on pensions and older workers can be valuable to organizations and younger colleagues due to their knowledge and experience;
  2. Comprehensive healthcare infrastructure: It is of prime importance that good quality health care be made available and accessible to the elderly in an age-sensitive manner. Health services should address preventive measures, in addition, effective care and support is required for those elderly suffering from various diseases through primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems.
  3. Strengthen the family care: The preferred source of support for the aged is still the family – informal system where the notion of care is embedded within a tradition of social obligations that are understood and reciprocated. The reciprocal care and support within multi-generational families of parents, grandparents and children should be encouraged. Traditional values of filial obligations can also be reinforced in school curricula and through the media.
  4. Efficient welfare policy for the old-age population: Schemes like Varishta Pension Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana, and IGNOAPS etc have to be strengthened and made aware to reach the right beneficiaries.
  5. Promoting and rewarding volunteering: Governments could promote and reward volunteering and care work among citizens and NGOs. Such unpaid activities improve the quality of the social fabric, help the well-being of those engaging in them, contribute to the economy, and reduce healthcare and welfare costs.

In the future, the success of a nation will critically depend upon its ability to address such sweeping demographic changes effectively though policies and programmes. This underutilized resource available to humanity should be integrated into the lives of communities and where they can make a substantial contribution to improving social conditions.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Elderly population in India is one of the most vulnerable sections of the society in an age of changing social dynamics. Comment. 
  2. What measures have been taken by the government to ensure their welfare? Are they enough? Examine.

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