Every tenth individual above 60 years has some form of disability
Every fourth Indian above the age of 60 and every fifth above the age of 45 reported poor health in a recent Union ministry survey.
The prevalence of poor self-reported health (SRH) in those above 60 (24 per cent) is twice than in the 45-59 age group.
Among senior citizens, a higher percentage of women and individuals from rural areas reported poor health, said the first Longitudinal Ageing Study in India published on January 6, 2021.
Self-rated health is a subjective aspect where five possible responses are considered and they are further classified under three broad headings: Good (‘very good’ and ‘good’), Moderate (fair), and Poor (‘poor’ and ‘very poor’).
More than half the respondents above 60 in Kerala and Tamil Nadu said they suffer from poor health. The figure was slightly lower in Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Puducherry where around a quarter rated their health as poor.
In Meghalaya, Daman & Diu, Nagaland, Gujarat, and Arunachal Pradesh, however, over half the senior citizens surveyed recorded good SRH.
LASI also measured the prevalence of physical, mental, visual, hearing and speech impairments among respondents over the age of 45 years.
According to Elderly in India: Profile and Programmes, 2016, senior citizens comprised 21 per cent of Indians with some form of disability.
Disability, on the other hand, is an umbrella term for impairments and physical limitations hindering the smooth activity and participation in daily social life.
About 8 per cent of Indians aged 45 years and above reported having at least one form of impairment and the prevalence is almost twice among senior citizens (10.5 per cent) than those between 45 years and 59 years.
A higher share of senior citizens in rural areas had a physical or mental impairment than their urban counterparts. Women in the age group reported a greater prevalence of locomotor, mental, and visual impairments.
The major disabilities reported in this age group are locomotive impairments (five per cent), followed by visual (three per cent), mental (two per cent), hearing (two per cent) and speech impairments (one per cent).
Karnataka and Dadra & Nagar Haveli have the highest proportions of senior citizens with disabilities. Meghalaya, Lakshadweep, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh reported the least.
Karnataka reported the highest prevalence of locomotor impairments (24 per cent), Dadra and Nagar Haveli reported the highest visual and hearing impairments, Tamil Nadu the highest mental impairments and Madhya Pradesh the highest speech impairments.
The north-eastern states performed relatively better with a minuscule percentage of population above 60 suffering from physical impairments compared to the empowered action group states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh.
The age of 60 and above is considered the threshold beyond which the capacity of vision, hearing and agility starts declining rapidly. Accompanying these is the burden of non-communicable diseases such as chronic pulmonary and respiratory disorders, stroke, cancer and dementia.
The United Nations has declared 2021-2030 as the “Decade of Healthy Ageing”, thereby calling upon governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media and the private sector to come together and strive towards “10 years of concerted, catalytic and collaborative action to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live.”
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