- The care of elderly people is managed by a set of professionals or voluntary organisations interested in geriatric services.
- These homes are run by NGOs, religious or voluntary organisations with support from the government, or by local philanthropists.
- The quality of service varies as these homes lack regulatory oversight.
- Many homes lack clearly established standard operating procedures, and their referral paths to health care are informal.
A rapidly growing section:
- A formal approach to homes for the elderly is an important policy and planning issue for India.
- The UN World Population Ageing Report notes that India’s ageing population (those aged 60 and above) is projected to increase to nearly 20% by 2050 from about 8% now.
- It is essential that our policy framework and social responses are geared to meet this reality.
- A recent set of research papers from Hyderabad focusing on the quality of health in homes for the elderly has some interesting insights.
- About 30% of the residents who were part of the study (over 1,500 participants from 40 homes) had a vision impairment of some sort, but nearly 90% of this vision impairment could be addressed by simple, relatively low-cost health interventions: issuing better eye glasses or cataract surgery.
- The study also found some ‘unseen’ effects of vision impairment: many were prone to depression.
- In fact, those with both vision and hearing impairment had a rate of depression that was five times higher than those without.
Public policy support:
- Building formal pathways for basic health screening such as screenings for blood sugar, blood pressure, periodic vision and hearing screening, and a simple questionnaire to assess mental health.
- Such interventions are inexpensive (think of all the motorcycle-operated screenings outside public grounds for morning-walkers) and could go a long way in identifying health issues and offering support.
- Homes for the elderly must be guided, again by policy, to make their facilities and buildings elderly and disabled-friendly.
- Design, architecture and civic facilities must be thought from the ground up and these innovations must be available for all residents, not just those living in expensive ones.
Three major themes “sense of well-being,” “having good physical health,” and “preserving good mental health” must be the goal of the government in promoting the elderly care to achieve SDG goals