60+ Is India's Fastest Growing Demographic. Yet, Public Policy Largely Ignores The Elderly
Kisturi Devi, 62, lives with her two daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren in Ballana village of Alwar district in Rajasthan. All three women are widowed. Since 2013, Devi has been receiving an old-age pension of Rs 500 per month--half the amount that would qualify her as living below the poverty line of Rs 32 per day in rural India...
Nearly 1 in 10 Indians is over 60 years old, a fact often lost amid the economic bombast of India's 'demographic dividend'.
Devi is among India's 100 million elderly people, numerous enough to form one of the 15 most populous countries in the world. This number is set to grow at the fastest pace among all demographic groups--while India's overall population is likely to grow by 55% between 2000 and 2050, the corresponding figures for the 60+ and 80+ age groups are 326% and 700%.
Yet, as Devi's case makes clear, the majority of India's aged subsist on meagre support from the government. The family continues to be seen as the 'normal' site for the care of the elderly, even as factors such as decreasing family size, migration of the young for work and abuse within the family make this a less than ideal situation.
Top: Kisturi Devi (centre) with three of her grandchildren and a Panchayat Extension Officer; Bottom: the shanty where she lives.
Many elderly people live alone--the majority of them women--and are easy targets of crime. Residential homes are not yet a viable alternative. Only the economically privileged can afford private homes, and government ones are few and far between.
This has important implications for public policy as ageing does not just affect the elderly, it affects everyone in society.
The elderly, in numbers
Roughly 9% of India's population is aged 60 years or more, as per Census figures from 2011, as opposed to 12% globally. By 2050, the 60+ age group is expected to form 19% of India's population.