May 16, 2009

AGEWELL NEWSLETTER MAY 2009



Center for Old Age


NEWSLETTER May 2009


Let’s Create Political Awareness among Older People

Indian democracy is still in the process of maturity unlike European democracies which are ageing. People born in independent India are also entering in the age group of older persons (60+). Until last decade there was negligible population of older persons in India. That’s why older persons have neither treated as a vote bank nor taken seriously by politicians. Voice for old age related issues was hardly raised by them at political forums like Parliament, Legislative Assembly, etc. But during last decade, population of older persons has increased significantly due to several reasons like advancement of medical science, economic prosperity, higher level of health awareness in the society, etc.

Indian elderly society is passing through a very tough time. On one hand its elderly population is booming and on the other hand traditional family support system is diminishing due to ever changing socio-economic scenario of the country. When large number of older persons is in urgent need of support from their families in particular and from society in general, they are forced to live on their own perils. Many older persons who had worked hard all through their lives, for the betterment of their respective families are now on the verge of isolation in their old age. In urban areas situation of older persons is more critical due to fast paced life in cities.

Special Activity of the Month

Symposium on

“Older Persons: The Custodians of Cultural Heritage

29th May 2009, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Today, there is an urgent need to develop appropriate support mechanism for older persons, so that they can live life full of respect, security and health. Keeping in view all this Agewell Foundation was initiated in 1999 by us with a series of older persons-friendly programs for welfare of older persons across the country.

Over the years politics has taken a pivotal role in development process of any society. Although in India majority of people’s representatives are from age group above 60+ but old age issues have never been considered seriously. In view of increasing population of older persons, some provisions have been made by governments, like Old Age Pension Scheme, National Policy on Older Persons, The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. But nothing concrete has been done so far.

Due to lack of political awareness among older persons they never fought for their own rights. It is a matter of dire urgency to educate older persons on the importance of political awareness. This will decide if India as a society has a bright future.

- Himanshu Rath



“ROLE OF OLDER PERSONS IN DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

A Survey - by Agewell Foundation

INTRODUCTION

Agewell is a consortium of over 1500 NGOs and 6500 volunteers spread across 540 districts of India, committed to initiate better interaction between generations and extend a helping hand.

Research & Advocacy Centre at Agewell Foundation recently carried out a nationwide survey to study and identify /understand the difference between myth and reality about the role of older persons in Democratic society.

METHODOLOGY AND SAMPLE DESIGN

Direct in depth interviews were conducted by administering semi-structured schedules to collect information /impression from older persons.

For the survey a representative sample of 2000 older persons (approx. 1000 each from rural and urban areas) were interviewed spread across 20 states.

Sample Units

The sample units were selected based on purposive random sampling but taken care to incorporate the representative views of the country from five divisions.

S. No

Type of sample

State

No of sample districts

No of sample blocks*

No of respondents


Region 1 – North India




1

Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand,

Delhi

10 (Approx.)

20

431


Region 2 – South India




2

Andra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka

10 (Approx.)

20

395


Region 3 – East India




3

West Bengal, Orissa, Assam

10 (Approx.)

20

376


Region 4 – West India




4

Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat

10 (Approx.)

20

404


Region 5 – Central India




5

Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh

10 (Approx.)

20

394


All India Total

50

100

2000

* 2 blocks were selected from each district for the study randomly, one from a block headquarters and the other from rural area.

Sample Respondents

The populace of 60+ years was randomly selected as per the 4 groups as given under;

o Category 1 : Rural older persons

1. Rural older women

2. Rural older men

o Category 2 : Urban Older Persons

1. Urban older women

2. Urban Older Men

A total of 500 respondents were selected from each group. In each group the target was to include every sections of the society, specifically –


o Retired older persons

o Non-pensioners/labourer farmers

o Literate

o Illiterate

o Financially secure

o BPL family


Volunteers' network spread across the country worked as interviewers for the survey. The interviews were conducted during the 3rd week of March 2009.

MAJOR FINDINGS

Study shows that a majority of respondents (79.6%) had cast their votes

during last general elections. According to the study older persons constitute almost 21.5% of the actual voters during elections.

· More than 8% of the total Indian population today consists of older persons (60+).

· Presently there are approx. 74 crores voters in India. Therefore the older persons automatically constitute approx. 12.5% of the voters.

· It is a well-known fact that the older persons have far more faith in democratic system and almost of 79.6% of older persons assert themselves by casting their votes.

· Statistics prove that the average number of total votes cast during any election is only 55 to 60 %. It is quite obvious that the so-called minority amongst the voters (i.e. older persons) constitute 20-22% of the actual voters.

à 79.6% of the older person respondents (80.8% male and 78.2% females) casted their votes during last general elections.

Salient observations

· It was observed that irrespective of economic, cultural or educational background or gender divide most of the older persons are opined about politics and believe that their age has given them enough experience (also referred as samajh or understanding) of all political maneuverings.

· They have very little say in day to day lives of their children or grandchildren but most of them believe that they have a major responsibility towards the country and their opinion matters. Voting in urban areas by older persons was found to be marginally higher 86.7% and in the rural areas 72.5%. In both the cases it is much higher than the actual voter percentage.

à Voting by older persons in urban areas (86.7%) was much higher than in rural areas, where only 72.5% of older persons had cast their votes.

à Almost 73.5% older persons feel that while the number of 60+ parliamentarians is constantly increasing in each election but they do not represent the interests of older persons.

Salient observations

· Most of the respondents were found to be rather disillusioned by lack of facilities or policies for older persons.

“Politicians have no sensitivity towards older persons. Even when they themselves become old, they don’t want to extend a helping hand towards other older persons, because they do not consider them as important voters.”

“Although older people regularly vote and their numbers are also very high but they are not considered a vote bank because they are not looked at as a group.”

“Who has ever heard any politician ever talking about old people in the parliament?”

à Only 11.4% of the older persons (18.6% urban and 4.2% rural) have knowledge of latest act i.e. Parents Maintenance Act. Out of them 70.5% of respondents wanted to know if their children have no sufficient income and job security, how can this Act work.

Salient observations

· Policy makers do not keep the realities of life in mind. Almost all of them are not old as yet and look for easier options. Although we are a country where Old Age is respected socially and culturally but we do not have any provisions to provide for food, shelter, health or legal support for older persons.

· Less than 50% are aware of Old Age Pension scheme and just about 9.6 % old people are aware of Parents Maintenance Act.

“If my children have no job or sufficient income, do you think we will let our grandchildren suffer because we need maintenance?”

“Which Indian would ever force his daughter or son-in-law to provide for him?” we won’t even have a drop of water in our married daughter’s house, how can we force them to provide for us?” what kind of law is this & for whom?

à 67% of all the older persons from urban areas (73% men & 61% women) say that health care needs are their primary need in Old Age. Whereas in rural areas 55% of older persons (57% men & 53% women) said that their most important need was food (bharpet khana).

à Almost 65.6% of the older persons from urban areas are in search of income opportunities so that they can earn money to meet their medial, housing and food related needs. Whereas in rural areas 37.2% older persons were found in search of any kind of income avenue.

Salient observations

· Almost 10% older persons in urban areas are still working where as surprisingly 15.4% are still found to be doing manual labour in rural areas. May be because of the younger people more out or urban areas in search of better opportunities.

· Study shows that availability of casual work in rural areas is quite higher in comparison to urban areas. That’s why urban older people are suffering much than rural older people.

Conclusion

Older persons of India have an important role in democratic process. They not only constitute larger chunk of actual voters but also form bigger set of elected representatives. Their opinions and decisions are purely based on their vast experience of life and their surroundings. Higher voting pattern of older persons shows that they are sincere voters and tend to assert their right to vote. Due to their sense of Tyaag and Paropkar they hardly raise issues pertaining to their old age. Resultantly, there are not many schemes and policies for the welfare of older persons in India.

Ironically, though older people represent both the ends of democracy (as voters and leaders) there is hardly any focus on them.

***

REPRESENTATION SENT TO POLITICAL PARTIES

BY AGEWELL FOUNDATION


Agewell is a consortium of over 1500 NGOs and 5000 volunteers spread across 540 districts of India, committed to provide a voice to older persons.


The experience of recently held assembly elections shows that the Indian democracy is in the process of entering a new paradigm – the election henceforth will be contested on the basis of issues that affect people in their day to day life. Voters have been more demanding. They know, once elected the government can do anything for them or to them. Ideological issues have taken a back seat. Interest groups demand fulfillment of their own agenda.


90 million older persons of India know that the manifesto proceeds the election time. It is in this context that the Agewell Foundation is addressing the voice of millions of older persons from across the country through this letter to you.


Cutting across caste and regional lines, one of the largest and potentially influential, yet ignored group of voters today is "Older Persons".


We request you to kindly consider the following facts:

 More than 8% of the total Indian population today consists of older persons (60+).

 Presently there are approx. 74 crores voters in India. Therefore the older persons automatically constitute approx. 12.5% of the voters.

 It is a well-known fact that the older persons have far more faith in democratic system and almost of 90% of older persons assert themselves by casting their votes.

 Statistics prove that the average number of total votes cast during any election is only 55 to 60 %. It is quite obvious that the so-called minority amongst the voters (i.e. older persons) constitute 20-22% of the actual voters.


While there are a number of schemes today for other disadvantaged groups, for some reasons, this particular group has been gnored by the most governments and parties. Therefore, it is indeed a group that is waiting to be tapped in taken into fold.


It is in this context, on behalf of the 90 million+ older persons from across the country, Agewell Foundation appeals to you to include issues that specifically concern the older persons in your election manifesto for the forthcoming general elections.


As per the latest study of Agewell Foundation’s Research & Advocacy Centre (for Needs and Rights of Older Persons) on Impact of Economic Slowdown on Older Persons of India, the following are the most

emphatically important issues of concerns for older persons in our country today;

Healthy and sustained financial support system for older persons.

Focus on gerent logical research & healthcare assistance facility.

A secure & firm social security network for older persons.

Older persons -friendly policies at all levels of governance.

Further, we take this opportunity to submit our proposed and recommended initiatives for the welfare of Older Persons for further consideration and inclusion in your party’s election manifesto.

  • Establishment of a National Institute for Aged on the lines of AIIMS for treatment and research in age related ailments.
  • Setting up of separate department of geriatrics on similar lines in each of the existing/proposed AIIMS.
  • Setting up of National Fund for the Aged (on the lines of National Fund for Rural Development).
  • Issue of special identity cum credit cards for the Older Persons (credit could be linked to the amount deposited or pension dues.)
  • Setting up of National Commission for the Aged. (on the lines of NHRC to advice various ministries/departments on Older Persons friendly programmes and policies and protect the interest of the aged)
  • Prime Minister’s Self-Employment Scheme for the aged
  • Setting up of a National Institute for Promotion of Entrepreneurship amongst the Aged.
  • Setting up of Foundation for revitalization of traditions and oral knowledge.
  • Enactment of Older Persons’ Justice Act.
  • A scheme for establishing Aged women’s Hostel on the lines of working women Hostels in each district.
  • Arrangement for Temporary shelters for the aged in each district.

We are sure, you would agree, your party’s commitment for the welfare of older persons through its manifesto would not only help highlight the problems being faced by older persons today but also reassure millions of older persons of the commitment of your party.

With all the best wishes for the forthcoming elections, we look up to you for your support in recognizing the needs of older persons.


For any old age related problem, suggestions, participation, registration as a volunteer, contribution
or further details please visit us at
www.agewellfoundation.org or contact us.

To help Older Persons across the country, we need your help.
Contributions to Agewell Foundation are exempted u/s 80G of the Income-tax Act.
FCRA No.231660163


Let's add life to their years!


Agewell Foundation
M-8A, Lajpat Nagar-II, New Delhi-110024, INDIA, Ph.: 91-011-29836486, 29840484 Fax: 29830458,
e-mail: agewell@bol.net.in, agewellfoundation@gmail.com Website: www.agewellfoundation.org