20 June 2019

Combating increased disability among India's elderly population

Options Summer 2019: Elderly people in India are suffering as a result of poor health conditions and immediate action needs to be taken.

© B R Ramana Reddi | Dreamstime

© B R Ramana Reddi | Dreamstime

A 2011 national census found that approximately 5% of India’s elderly population suffered from a disability. A recent study however shows that this percentage is much higher – high enough in fact, to warrant immediate action.

The results show that 17.91% of males and 26.21% of females aged 60 and older experience disability. This equates to a population of roughly 9 million elderly men and 14 million elderly women. The prevalence of disability is also much higher among widowed women, the poor, and illiterate persons.

In addition, researchers studied three health conditions – diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease – and found a significant connection between these and disability. Unlike previous surveys, this study focused on the entire country, for the first time enabling a broad picture of the nation’s elderly. The researchers hope that this more complete picture will urge policymakers to promote healthy lifestyles, offer assistance to families with elderly members, and provide sufficient transportation and infrastructure needs for the elderly.

"It is evident from our study that disability in old age is a major public health concern in India,” explains Nandita Saikia, an IIASA researcher and an author of the study. “We must promote healthy aging to postpone the onset of disability and increase quality of life for people with disabilities.”

Text by Jeremy Summers

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Last edited: 13 June 2019

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