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Policy Watch No.15

Policy Shortfalls Leave India’s Elderly to Fend for Themselves

One of independent India’s successes, improving life expectancy at birth from about 30 years in the 1950s to the 70s in the 2000s, has also exposed a major flaw in the country’s policymaking process: an abject neglect of state support for the elderly. Barring a few token measures, India’s elders languish in the blind spot of its policymakers. A mix of factors are at play. For all practical purposes, the country’s public healthcare facilities do not inspire the confidence of the people despite experienced professionals and the nearly free services that they deliver. At the other end of this spectrum of healthcare providers are expensive privately run hospitals that can push patients and their families into poverty. Societal changes, including the rising number of nuclear families, smaller family sizes, and migration for employment by the economically active population, have also had their effect on the provision of care for the elderly.

In this Policy Watch, Tulika Tripathi, Economist, Centre for Studies in Economics and Planning, Central University of Gujarat , analyses the causes behind the neglect of the elderly by the state. Drawing from studies in Gujarat and other parts of India, she proposes that India’s public policy should be designed to cater to multiple levels, including correcting the rural-urban biases in health infrastructure, creating elderly friendly facilities, and providing support for caregivers.

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