Put measures to benefit older people in poll manifestos: NGOs

March 26th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Agewell Foundation, a consortium of over 1,500 NGOs across 540 districts of the country, has sent an open letter to political parties seeking measures for the welfare of older people in various poll manifestos.
In the letter, claiming to address “the voice of around 90 million older people (above 60 years of age)” in the country, the NGOs have urged parties to consider the needs and issues of the population segment that comprises eight percent of the Indian population and around 12.5 percent of the electorate.

The letter enlists various demands concerning the aged based on a recent study by Agewell, which assesses the role of older people in the democratic process and the impact of the economic slowdown in their lives.

The study found that a healthy and sustained financial support system, focus on research and healthcare assistance, social security, and policies friendly to older people were important issues that were being sidelined.

The study was conducted among 2,000 people across the country and found that 79.6 percent of the older persons cast their vote in the previous general elections.

It also indicated that while 67 percent of the respondents from urban areas felt that healthcare is their primary need in old age, 55 percent of the respondents in rural areas felt their most important need was food.

A majority of those surveyed specially in the urban areas were also looking for any kind of income avenues, the study said.

“Ironically though older people represent both the voters and the leaders, there is hardly any focus on them,” the study said.

“So based on this we have submitted our letter and recommended initiatives for the welfare of older persons for further consideration and inclusion in various party manifestoes,” said Himanshu Rath, founder and chairperson, Agewell Foundation.

The recommendations include establishing a National Institute for Aged, for treatment and research in age-related ailments; setting up of a separate department of geriatrics in hospitals; a national fund for the aged on the lines of the National Fund for Rural Development; issuing special Id-cum-credit cards for older people and setting up a dedicated national commission for advising ministries and departments on older-person friendly programmes and policies.

In addition, the letter asks for a prime minister’s self-employment scheme for the aged, promotion of entrepreneurship opportunities for them, enactment of the Older Persons’ Justice Act, establishing an aged-women’s hostel and temporary shelters in each district.

“The party’s commitment for the welfare of older persons through its manifesto would not only help highlight problems, but reassure the millions of older persons of the party’s commitment to their cause,” Rath added.

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