Published October 1, 2012 | 8:49 am
New Delhi:President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his “deep alarm and dismay” over a survey that revealed abuse of the elderly and said everything must be done to ensure that they can live a life of dignity.
Addressing a function organised by HelpAge India on the occasion of International Day of Older Persons, the president said the elderly “should be encouraged to get out of a retirement mentality and think about old age as a second inning” and to “look beyond the self and the family and work for the community”.
Commenting on the survey by HelpAge India on the abuse of elders, the president said he hoped the findings would serve as a wake-up call.
“We must do everything possible to ensure that our elders can live a life of dignity, enjoying the best of medical attention, economic security as well as emotional stability,” he said, according to a Rashtrapati Bhavan statement.
The president said he is to turn 77 in a few months, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has turned 80. He said he was proud to be among elders contributing to society.
“It is said that there are over a million persons in the world crossing the threshold of 60 years every month. The World Bank believes there is an old age crisis looming large over most countries of the world. It is with the specific intention of focussing attention on the problems of the elderly that the United Nations declared October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons,” President Mukherjee said.
He added that while medical science and economic development has expanded the life span of human beings, “there is also recognition that ageing is amongst the major economic and political challenges of the 21st century”.
President Mukherjee said India “is a young nation and we celebrate the fact that more than 50 percent of our population is under the age of 25″.
“According to a forthcoming UNFPA report, 20 per cent of our population is going to comprise of elders by 2050. We simply cannot afford to neglect or ignore this section of the population,” he said.
“Our Constitution, in Article 41, which forms part of the Directive Principles, calls upon the State to make effective provision for public assistance in cases of old age, within limits of its economic capacity and development,” he said.
President Mukherjee pointed out that the majority of older persons in India are women. The “withering away” of the joint family system across India had led to ending of “the informal support structures that elders used to enjoy”.
He said “we must evolve solutions that strike a balance between conflicting demands of elderly and younger members of the family”.
He also mentioned that the Government of India in 1999, which was the International Year of Older Persons, had adopted a National Policy on Older Persons. “This is a comprehensive document that identifies principal areas of intervention and action strategies. This policy needs to be implemented in full earnest,” the president said.
“Active participation and involvement in society of the elderly is the mantra which can ensure independence, dignity and self-fulfilment”, he said.