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Marginalisation of the Elderly – A Graphical Analysis From Census 2011 to COVID-19

Elderly, perhaps the only community that is often forgotten for being a marginalized section. As if their daily struggles with age discrimination, social protection and healthcare were not enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has made their situation even worse.

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Elderly, perhaps the only community that is often forgotten for being a marginalized section. As if their daily struggles with age discrimination, social protection and healthcare were not enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has made their situation even worse. Two months after the corona virus was declared as a pandemic by WHO, the UN Secretary-General revealed that the COVID-19 fatality rate for people over 80-years-old, is five times the global average.

Keeping in mind that the older people suffer from multiple and at times serious ailments, we can understand how this makes them more susceptible to the virus. Apart from its fatality rate, the pandemic has caused an unaccustomed fear among the elderly population.

According to WHO data from April 2020, more than 95% of COVID-19 deaths were among people over 60 years of age, and more than half of all death occurred in people of 80 years of age and above.

When asked about their awareness regarding the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, 91% of the respondents were aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID 19, while 9% were unaware

The survey also focused the impact of lockdown on their livelihood and income either by loss of work or reduction in wages.

Among 65% of those who said that their livelihood has suffered, 60% were from rural area and 40% from urban area.

When talking about the impact of lockdown on the livelihood of the breadwinner of the family, 71% claimed to have been affected.

71% of those who claimed to have been affected, 61% were from the rural areas, while 39% were from urban areas.

42% elders reported worsening of health condition during the lockdown. If we look at the age wise distribution of this 42%, 61% were young-old, 31% old-old and 8% oldest old.

42% elders reported worsening of health condition during the lockdown. 64% were from the rural areas and 36% from urban areas.

Taking into account the country wide lockdown, 78% people belonging to the elderly community had issues in getting access to some essential goods and services. If we look at the specific area, in rural area it was 84% and 71% for urban area.

The survey, categorized some of the major fears among the elderly with the rise of COVID-19 cases.

In their suggestion to the government, 60% of the elderly community mentioned the social pension as their top need, while rest wanted Medicines & Healthcare services to be available.

Elderly population is increasing over time. From 5.6% in 1961, the proportion has increased to 8.6 in 2011

The data on the old age dependency ratio by sex showed that the dependency of old age men increased from 10.9% in 1961 to 13.6% in 2011 while the dependency of old age women increased from 10.9% in 1961 to 14.9% in 2011.

The living arrangement of the elderly showed that more than 56% of elderly persons lived with their spouse and 32% of aged persons lived with their children. About 5% of elderly persons lived alone while another 4% lived with other relations and non-relations.

If we just look at India, the situation is no different. To get a sense of how much and in what ways has the pandemic affected the older population of the country, “HelpAge India” conducted a survey covering 17 states and 4 union territories. While carrying out the survey, they focused on the healthcare, livelihood, access to goods & services and assistance provided by various stakeholders. The 3 age groups targeted in the survey were, 60 – 69 years (Young Old), 70 – 79 years (Old Old) and 80 years and above (Oldest Old).

When asked about their awareness regarding the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, 91% of the respondents were aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID 19, while 9% were unaware. The survey also focused the impact of lockdown on their livelihood and income either by loss of work or reduction in wages. Among 65% of those who said that their livelihood has suffered, 60% were from rural area and 40% from urban area.

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When talking about the impact of lockdown on the livelihood of the breadwinner of the family, 71% claimed to have been affected of which 61% were from the rural areas, while 39% were from urban areas. Moving on to the health conditions, 42% elders reported worsening of health condition during the lockdown. If we look at the age wise distribution of this 42%, 61% were young-old, 31% old-old and 8% oldest old. As for its area wise distribution, 64% were from the rural areas and 36% from urban areas.

Taking into account the country wide lockdown, 78% people belonging to the elderly community had issues in getting access to some essential goods and services. Some of the top goods and services that were difficult to access were food, groceries, medicines, domestic help / household maid and banking / ATM services. If we look at the specific area, in rural area it was 84% and 71% for urban area.

Among many other things, the lack of social contact has deeply affected their mental and emotional health, with 61% responding that they felt confined & socially isolated in their homes during the lockdown. The percentage was significantly high among the young-old age group.

The survey, categorized some of the major fears among the elderly with the rise of COVID-19 cases. 38 % had the fear of getting infected by COVID 19, fear of its spread through socializing & loss of Income, 34% feared economic loss, fear of starvation & no work, and 12% had fear of travelling, fear of community spread and their low immunity levels. In their suggestion to the government, the 60% of the elderly community mentioned the social pension as their top need, while rest wanted Medicines & Healthcare services to be available.

Before the next census of 2021, let’s look at some of the crucial findings of the 2011 census report concerning the elderly community.

Elderly population is increasing over time. From 5.6% in 1961, the proportion has increased to 8.6 in 2011. 71% of elderly population reside in rural area, while 29% of elderly population reside in urban area. The percent of literates among elderly persons increased from 27% in 1991 to 44% in 2011.The literacy rates among elderly females (28%) is less than half of the literacy rate among elderly males (59%).

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The data on the old age dependency ratio by sex showed that the dependency of old age men increased from 10.9% in 1961 to 13.6% in 2011 while the dependency of old age women increased from 10.9% in 1961 to 14.9% in 2011. Among all the states in the country, the old age dependency for both male and female in 2011 was highest in Kerala at 18.6 and 20.6 respectively.

The literacy rate among the elderly showed that 80% male living in urban area were literate compared to 51% in rural area. 53% of urban women were literate to that of 18% of literate women in rural area. The maximum literacy rate was 84% in Mizoram followed by 79% in Kerala and 75% in Chandigarh.

Moving on to their health, the reports states that, “The prevalence of heart diseases among elderly men and women was much higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Urinary problems were more common among aged men while more aged women reported to suffer from problem of joints.” It also shows that almost half of the elderly disabled population was suffering from Locomotor disability and visual disability.

The living arrangement of the elderly showed that more than 56% of elderly persons lived with their spouse and 32% of aged persons lived with their children. About 5% of elderly persons lived alone while another 4% lived with other relations and non-relations.

While talking about the rights and dignity of older people during COVID-19, UN chief said that, beyond the pandemic’s immediate health impact, it is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation, especially in developing countries where public health care and social protection services will likely be overwhelmed by the virus.

Credit for the article and the graphical representation goes to Rashi Choudhary, Vaishali Tomar, Riya Rani and Aman Thakur.

Reference-

http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/ElderlyinIndia_2016.pdf

https://www.helpageindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/The-Elder-Story-Ground.pdf

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