Ageism: Silver population turning to gray population

Ageing is a continuous, irreversible, universal process, which starts from conception and continues till the death. Population ageing is occurring throughout the world. It is an inevitable increase in the share of older persons that results from the decline in fertility and improvement in survival that characterize the demographic transition. India is a signatory to the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing that sets an agenda for formulating and implementing public policies on ageing and influencing the direction and priorities for scientific gerontology in the coming decades. The global population aged 60 years or over numbered 962 million in 2017, more than twice as large as in 1980 when there were 382 million older persons worldwide. By 2050, the proportion of older persons 60 years and above is projected to rise to 21.1 per cent (2.1 billion). Aging is occurring rather quickly in Europe and in Asia. The shares of elderly in the total population is highest in European countries, whereas the absolute numbers of older people are highest in Asian countries. In India elderly people comprise 104 million population. From 5.6% in 1961 the proportion has increased to 8.0% in 2011. A report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) suggests that the number of elderly person in India is expected to grow to 173 million by 2026.

Ageism is a prejudiced attitude that includes not only beliefs about other age group but also the maligned feelings and dispositions directed towards that group and its members. It is a stereotype which creates discrimination against people on the basis of their age. For older people, ageism is an everyday challenge. Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice, and is not widely countered – like racism or sexism. It is widespread and an insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults. Ageist attitudes are perpetuated in many ways: People go for shopping of elderly costume, they generally ask to show costume for Dada/dadi, mataji, and shopkeeper turns with brown, grey white colour, as if these tint of colour are designated to them. Bright colour which are sign of happiness is somehow eliminated from their life. There is also lack of positive images of the elderly in advertisements and on TV programs (wrinkles are often perceive as a sign of ugliness), the use of state welfare funds which are often targeted to other age groups (productive age), excluding services for older adults such as financial, infrastructural, geriatric, physical and mental health services. There is no specialized training in geriatrics in most medical colleges in India. Other problem includes feeling of powerlessness, loneliness, uselessness and isolation in elderly,. In community health centres, loneliness among elderly patients with depression, reported loneliness in about three-fourth (77.3%) of the patients.

Even in a country like Japan, the top-heavy demographics with aged people (26.7 % of the total population)creates huge challenges for government and its economy. Now the country is tackling the problem with innovative programs, including everything from comprehensive long-term-care insurance to robots for health care (PARO). Indian culture and certain old age beliefs also propagate ageism and derogatory practices directed towards the silver population of the country. There are certain traditional practices which are still prevailing in India, leading elderly to end their life. Santhara -The vow is carried out in stages, by gradually giving up solid food, liquid food, and finally, even water. Other is Thalaikkooththal is the traditional practice of senicide (killing of the elderly) or involuntary euthanasia, by their own family members, observed in some parts of southern districts of Tamil Nadu state of India. Prayopavesa, or fasting to death, is an acceptable way for a Hindu to end their life in certain circumstances. It is a gradual process, giving ample time for the patient to prepare himself and those around him for his death. It shows the lost glory of elderly.

Although, Government has assisted various scheme under different ministries. Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP), Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana, Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY), Battery Operated Vehicles for Disabled and Old Aged Passengers’ at Railway Stations. Passenger can book e-wheel chairs online through IRCTC portal, Vayoshreshtha Samman (National award given to eminent senior citizens & institutions) But none of these is helping lot to restore the dignity of elderly in our country. Most common form of abuse elders experience is disrespect (56%) while 49% said they faced verbal abuse, and 33% neglect, 12% of those interviewed said they were either beaten or slapped (Helpage 2018).

Aged people contribute to society:

They carry the immense experience of their personal and professional life, society at large need to channelize those experiences for better tomorrow. They can provide a vital generational link for upcoming generations. Grandparents in joint families provide a crucial link for transferring values and morals to the younger generation, Acknowledging seniors’ contributions would help to make ours a more age-inclusive society that does not pit one generation against the other, Their deep cultural impressions and social experiences provide the necessary buffer against intolerance, which provides stability in society especially in the era of hate and crime.

Ways to combat ageism:

Identifying personal attitudes that are ageist in nature, modify ageist attitudes in personal contact with older adults, encouraging innovative intergenerational programs can be created, formal education about aging can also be introduced in professional schools for initiating social actions and reform. There’s no antidote to ageing but restoring the lost glory of our elderly should take a prime seat with concern to revive the traditional value system as well as the joint families, where intergenerational ties were strong and dependable.

“There is still today and tomorrow fresh with dreams, life never grows old”

Author: Manisha Dhami

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