The issue of the senior citizens is the emerging global challenge of the 21st century. The global population ageing is 690 million people Today, as per the United Nation’s Population Division figures of 2006, there are 690 million people over the age of sixty years. This means that 11% of the total world population are senior citizens. The United Nations defines senior citizens as those above the age of 60 years. This population will grow to 2 billion people by 2050,that is 22% of the total world population.
In India, population ageing, as per 2001 Census of India, is 7.44% of the total Indian population which is equal to 75,622,321 senior citizens. By 2030, this figure will reach nearly 20 crores.
Compared to developing countries, India can be considered ‘Young’, with a vast majority of working age population, and so the dependency ratio is not very unfavourable. But this ‘Population Dividend’ will gradually disappear within the next four to five decades, and the country will face the same type of situation that the developed countries are witnessing today, of a rapidly ageing society. This advantage gives us the time to plan and introduce policy initiatives and programmes to address these issues and prepare the society for this demographic transition.
The challenge is to ensure that the elderly are able to lead a healthy, stress-free and comfortable life ahead. They should have every opportunity to pursue the activities of their choice and be able to contribute to society even after retirement. It is the right of the elderly to be treated with respect and dignity and not be abused or exploited.
The elderly form a rich repository of knowledge and experience, which no society can afford to ignore. They should not be marginalized, but should be encouraged to lead an active and participatory life even after retirement.
To work towards “A Society for all Ages” is the message given by the UN Declaration on Ageing, known as the Madrid Declaration, 2002,the Plan of Action, Shanghai and also the Macao Plan of Action. The National Plan for Older Persons (NPOP) adopted by the Government of India in 1999 and the plans adopted by the various states also assert the need to ensure that the elderly lead a life of dignity, care and support. In this, apart from the government, the NGOs and also the civic society have to play a very important role.
One important fall out of the extended life span that is engaging the attention of both the developed and developing countries is the economic security of the elderly, and the pension load on the exchequer. Maintenance, care, prevention of crime and abuse, are the other important issues that have been dealt with in the Constitution and various legislations.
Finally,the need of the day is to encourage Active, Healthy, Participatory and Qualitative Ageing.