No country for old men

Only an old person can understand the problems of the aged in this country, once a nonagenarian has observed. He put it in such a succinct way that his remark reflects the dilemmas, daily struggles and precarious attempts of old men and women to survive during their sunset years. So, when we see India ranked among the worst countries in the world to grow old in the Global Age Watch Index, it should not shock us.

Even a cursory look at our rail and bus transport system, roads, government offices and every other facility, reveals that they are not designed to cater to the aged. Take, for example, the public transport in cities. The steps leading into a bus are so high that an old person can’t get in without a Good Samaritan’s help. At railway stations, one has to run from pillar to post to get a wheelchair for the aged. Those who can walk the platform to board a train have to test their physical strength to get in. No visible improvements have been made to facilitate the old people travel easily in the British-built railway stations. The less we talk about their plight at post-offices, banks, private or government offices, the better. They have to wait and stand in queues to get the work done. Often, they face insults and ridicule at public places. Their healthcare in government hospitals is pathetic.

It is estimated that India’s aged population is 9 crores now and by 2050 it is expected to touch more than 31 crores. With life span increasing and medical sciences making rapid advances, it is possible that there will be more elderly people than children below 15 years of age in another 35 years. That means India will join some Western countries and Japan in having more elderly people than the young. It also means many more challenges for families and the government to support the graying population morally and financially.

Needless to say, we are ill-equipped to meet the challenges posed by the elderly. With joint family concept disappearing and few government initiatives to care for the elderly in the form of aged homes and tailor-made health schemes, they have to fend for themselves. That is a grim scenario.

On a lighter note, if anyone wants to age with dignity and lead a hassle-free life, the top 10 destinations for them in descending order, according to Global Age Watch, are: Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Iceland, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.

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