New Delhi, Sep 27:
More than 40 per cent of the elderly in India are in the poorest wealth quintile – or one-fifth of the total – with about 18.7 per cent of them living without an income, according to a new UN report.
This level of poverty among the elderly may affect their quality of life and healthcare utilization, according to the UNFPA’s India Ageing Report 2023.
“Overall, more than two-fifth (sic) of the elderly in India are in the poorest wealth quintile—ranging from 4.2 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir and 5 per cent in Punjab to 40.2 per cent in Lakshadweep and 47 per cent in Chhattisgarh,” the report said.
An analysis of their work, pension, and income status indicates that 18.7 per cent elderly did not have any income. This proportion was above the national level in 17 states, ranging from 19.3 per cent in Uttarakhand to 42.4 per cent in Lakshadweep, the report said.
The report pointed out that a higher life expectancy among older women, a finding in line with the pattern across several nations.
“At 60 years, a person in India may expect to live another 18.3 years, which is higher in case of females at 19 years as compared to males at 17.5 years,” according to the latest UN report.
For instance, in Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, women at 60 years have a life expectancy of 23 and 22 years respectively which is four years greater than men at 60 years in these states – as compared to the national average differential of only 1.5 years –, the report said.
Life expectancy of women at 60 years is greater than 20 years in states such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, raising concerns about their social and economic well-being, the report said.
In states where life expectancy at 75 years exceeds 10 years, programmes and policies to support a healthier life for the oldest of the old persons are clearly called for, it said.
“Poverty is inherently gendered in old age when older women are more likely to be widowed, living alone, with no income and with fewer assets of their own, and fully dependent on family for support. Incidence of widowhood and higher life expectancy among older women are key demographic characteristics in India.
“Elderly widowed women are often alone with little support and also experience greater incidence of morbidities that are functionally restricting,” the report released on Wednesday said.
A larger percentage of women among the oldest of the old signifies a “higher imbalance in the demographic structure” and entails additional resource pooling for associated support and care giving, the report said.
Since 1991, the sex ratio (females per 1,000 males) among the elderly has been climbing steadily, while the sex ratio of the general population remains the same.
A sex ratio of greater than 1,000 implies a larger number of elderly women than men, something that is not true for the general population.
Between 2011 and 2021, the ratio increased in India as a whole and across all regions barring the Union Territories and western India.
In the north-east and the east, while the ratio increased, it remained below 1,000 in both years, indicating that the men still outnumber the women in these regions even at 60-plus years.
This, however, is not true for the other regions (which has a bearing on the country’s average).
“A case in point is central India where the sex ratio went from 973 in 2011 to 1,053 in 2021, implying that the women caught up with and outperformed the men in survival after 60 years over the decade,” the report said.
The report revealed a spending of 1259.6 billion on elderly under Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives from 2014 to 2021, an increase of 182 per cent in seven years.
“Since 2014, CSR spending on senior citizens’ welfare has remained less than 0.3 per cent of total spends despite a 516 per cent growth, from Rs 89 million to Rs 551 million, in the last seven years,” it said. (Agencies)