Policies, Programs, and Schemes for the Elderly in India: A Critical Review

Policies, Programs, and Schemes for the Elderly in India: A Critical Review

Nidhi Gupta (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India) and S. Siva Raju (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4772-3.ch002


Till the end of the twentieth century, aging was considered an issue of the developed countries. However, given the rapidly aging population in developing countries, coupled with the rapidly changing socio-economic and cultural contexts like urbanization, increasing women participation, individualism, and nuclear families, it has been acknowledged that aging poses greater challenge to these countries owing to resource constrains and lack of political commitment. India is undergoing a rapid demographic transition with 104 million older adults in 2011, which is projected to triple by 2050. This transition poses challenges for the health and social systems, and there is an urgent need to strengthen these system with inclusive policies and developmental approaches. This chapter highlights population aging issues and initiatives undertaken to address aging issues in India by critically reviewing the efforts made at global as well as national levels over the years against emerging challenges.
Chapter Preview


Population ageing is the key feature of twenty-first century around the globe, given the increasing life expectancy and falling fertility rates, and India is no exception. In fact, until the last two decades, population ageing was considered to be a phenomenon predominantly of developed countries, it has been realized that majority of elderly around the world will be concentrated in developing countries. India is in the process of demographic transition and has now entered the phase of falling fertility thereby reducing natural growth and is predicted to reach low fertility-mortality replacement level in the foreseeable future. Life expectancy is increasing while birth rates are on the decline resulting in the rapid growth in the share of the population above 60 years of age, which is expected to exceed 200 million in 25 years and 323 million by 2050 (United Nations, 2015). Those who cross the age of 60 today are expected to live up to the age of 77 years (Helpage, 2015).

The socio-demographic profile of elderly in India highlights that older population is a very heterogonous group with multiple layers of diversity and vulnerabilities. Among the older persons cohort, elderly women outnumber older men with over 52.9 million older women and 51.3 million elderly men (table 1). The proportion of elderly women will increase rapidly in future given the higher life expectancy of women than men and various other social factors (Gupta, 2013). The age-wise disaggregation of the older population suggests that there were over 11.3 million oldest-old population (80 years and above). As per Census (2011), the oldest-old is about one percent of the total population of the country and about 10 percent of total elderly in the country. Between 2001 and 2011, the growth rate of elderly population (35.2) was double the growth rate of general population of the country. The oldest-old segment of the population grew at the fastest rate with a decadal growth rate of 40.1, with oldest-women grew even faster at growth rate of 45.4, reflecting rapid feminisation of ageing in the country. Literacy rate is very low among elderly population in India and is even worse among older women (less than three in ten women with any education). In India, generally, persons aged 15 to 59 years are supposed to form the population of working ages and at age 60, people generally retire or with draw themselves from work. Thus, the Old age dependency ratio is defined as the number of persons in the age-group 60 or more per 100 persons in the age-group 15-59 years. Old age dependency ratio in India is 14.2 (Census 2011). About two-fifth of total elderly not participating in paid work, and gender disaggregation shows that about four-fifths of elderly women didn’t participate in paid employment. More than three in five elderly (65.5) were currently married, however on disaggregating data by gender it was observed that more than four-fifth elderly men were currently married and about half of total elderly women were widowed. Over five percent of the total elderly population reported some form of disability. It is essential to bear these layers in mind while designing and implementing policies and programmes for elderly, suggesting that it would be too simplistic to develop generic solutions for this diverse and heterogeneous group.

Table 1.
Socio-demographic profile of the elderly in India, Census (2011)
Socio-Demographic AspectsTotalMaleFemale
60+ Population (in millions)104.251.352.9
Percentage of 60+ population8.68.29.0
Decadal growth rate of 60+35.234.835.5
80+ Population (in millions)
Percentage of 80+ population0.90.91.0
Decadal growth rate of 80+40.134.445.4
Percentage of rural elderly71
Sex Ratio (Number of females per 1000 males)1033
Old age dependency ratio (Number of 60+ per 100 persons in the 15-59 age group)14.213.614.9
Literacy rate of 60+43.559.128.5
Non-Worker percentage among 60+58.639.876.9
Marital Status of 60+ (%)
Never Married2.52.92
Divorced / Separate0.50.40.6
Disability (Percentage of 60+)

Note: Census, 2011 data has been compiled by authors to prepare this socio-demographic profile of elderly in India

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: