National Policy on Senior Citizens, 2011

This policy is based on several factors. These include the demographic explosion among the elderly, the changing economy and social milieu, advancement in medical research, science and technology and high levels of destitution among the elderly rural poor. Social deprivations and exclusion, privatization of health services and changing pattern of morbidity affect the elderly. This policy addresses issues concerning senior citizens living in urban and rural areas, special needs of the ‘oldest old’ and older women.

In principle the policy values an age integrated society. It will endeavor to strengthen integration between generations, facilitate interaction between the old and the young as well as strengthen bonds between different age groups. It believes in the development of a formal and informal social support system, so that the capacity of the family to take care of senior citizens is strengthened and they continue to live in the family.

Focus of the policy:

1. Mainstream senior citizens, especially older women, and bring their concerns into the national development debate with priority to implement mechanisms already set by governments and supported by civil society and senior citizens‟ associations. Support promotion and establishment of senior citizens‟ associations, especially amongst women.

2. Promote the concept of “Ageing in Place” or ageing in own home, housing, income security and homecare services, old age pension and access to healthcare insurance schemes and other programmes and services to facilitate and sustain dignity in old age. The thrust of the policy would be preventive rather than cure.

3. The policy will consider institutional care as the last resort. It recognizes that care of senior citizens has to remain vested in the family which would partner the community, government and the private sector.

4. Being a signatory to the Madrid Plan of Action and Barrier Free Framework it will work towards an inclusive, barrier-free and age-friendly society.

5. Recognize that senior citizens are a valuable resource for the country and create an environment that provides them with equal opportunities, protects their rights and enables their full participation in society. Towards achievement of this directive, the policy visualizes that the states will extend their support for senior citizens living below the poverty line in urban and rural areas and ensures their social security, healthcare, shelter and welfare. It will protect them from abuse and exploitation so that the quality of their lives improves.

6. Long term savings instruments and credit activities will be promoted to reach both rural and urban areas. It will be necessary for the contributors to feel assured that the payments at the end of the stipulated period are attractive enough to take care of the likely erosion in purchasing power.

7. Employment in income generating activities after superannuation will be encouraged.

8. Support and assist organizations that provide counseling, career guidance and training services.

9. States will be advised to implement the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 and set up Tribunals so that elderly parents unable to maintain themselves are not abandoned and neglected.

10. States will set up homes with assisted living facilities for abandoned senior citizens in every district of the country and there will be adequate budgetary support.

Interventions in the area of Health Care:

With advancing age, senior citizens have to cope with health and associated problems some of which may be chronic, of a multiple nature, require constant attention and carry the risk of disability and consequent loss of autonomy. Some health problems, especially when accompanied by impaired functional capacity require long term management of illness and nursing care.

  • Healthcare needs of senior citizens will be given high priority. The goal would be good, affordable health service, heavily subsidized for the poor and a graded system of user charges for others.
  • The basic structure of public healthcare would be through primary healthcare. It would be strengthened and oriented to meet the health needs of senior citizens. Preventive, curative, restorative and rehabilitative services will be expanded and strengthened and geriatric care facilities provided at secondary and tertiary levels. The policy will strive to create a tiered national level geriatric healthcare with focus on outpatient day care, palliative care, rehabilitation care and respite care.
  • Twice in a year the PHC nurse or the ASHA will conduct a special screening of the 80+ population of the villages and urban areas and public/private partnerships will be worked out for geriatric and palliative healthcare in rural areas recognizing the increase of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the country.
  • Efforts would be made to strengthen the family system so that it continues to play the role of primary caregiver in old age. This would be done by sensitizing younger generations and by providing tax incentives for those taking care of the older members.
  • Development of health insurance will be given priority to cater the needs of different income segments of the population with provision for varying contributions and benefits. Packages catering to the lower income groups will be entitled to state subsidy. Concessions and relief will be given to health insurance to enlarge the coverage base and make it affordable. Universal application of health insurance – RSBY will be promoted in all districts and senior citizens will be compulsorily included in the coverage. Specific policies will be worked out for healthcare insurance of senior citizens.
  •  From an early age citizens will be encouraged to contribute to a government created healthcare fund that will help in meeting the increased expenses on healthcare after retirement. It will also pay for the health insurance premium in higher socio economic segments.
  • Special programmes will be developed to increase awareness on mental health and for early detection and care of those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Restoration of vision and eyesight of senior citizens will be an integral part of the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB).
  • Use of science and technology such as web based services and devices for the well being and safety of senior citizens will be encouraged and expanded to under-serviced areas.
  • National and regional institutes of ageing will be set up to promote geriatric healthcare. Adequate budgetary support will be provided to these institutes and a cadre of geriatric healthcare specialists created including professionally trained caregivers to provide care to the elderly at affordable prices.
  • The current National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE) being implemented in would be expanded immediately and, in partnership with civil society organizations, scaled up to all districts of the country.
  • Public private partnership models will be developed wherever possible to implement healthcare of the elderly.
  • Services of mobile health clinics would be made available through PHCs or a subsidy would be granted to NGOs who offer such services.
  • Health Insurance cover would be provided to all senior citizens through public funded schemes, especially those over 80 years who do not pay income tax.
  • Hospices and palliative care of the terminally ill would be provided in all district hospitals and the Indian protocol on palliative care will be disseminated to all doctors and medical professionals.
  • Recognize gender based attitudes towards health and develop programmes for regular health checkups especially for older women who tend to neglect their problems.
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