Social Demography of the Elderly
One of the most significant demographic changes of our time is the rapidly ageing global population. The life expectancy has also increased dramatically from the time of independence to the present, with further increases projected over the next two decades. This will likely introduce new societal challenges such as providing them with health care; financial assistance; and social and emotional support. The ageing population trend, in conjunction with social and economic trends, is also ushering in new concerns about changing family values, living arrangements, and lifestyles.
Rapidly increasing population of elderly
In the Global Age Watch Index 2014, India ranks 71st out of 96 countries on elderly (60 years plus) care. The 2001 census has shown that the elderly population (60+) of India accounted for 77 million and census 2011 data indicates that older population is projected to cross the 100 million mark in 2011. It took more than 100 years for the aged population to double in most of the countries in the world, but in India, it has increased in just 20 years. Therefore, in a way, we are an ‘ageing population.’ If you see figure 1.1 you will notice that while India might be banking on its demographic dividend because of its record number of the young, but the number of elderly (defined as those above 60) is rising rapidly. The share of elderly in the population has been rising steadily since 1961 – from 5.6% in 1961 to 8.6% in 2011.
Elderly depend on traditional caregiving system
Scarily, about 90% of elderly have no proper social security (i.e., no PF, gratuity, pension, etc.) and depend on the traditional caregiving system.
Traditional caregiving systems are breaking down
The demands of living were becoming costlier day by day, daughter’s-in-law, who are traditionally the designated “elderly caregivers,” are increasingly taking up outdoor jobs for improving the financial condition of the family. In such conditions the quality of Indian elderly health care system had to suffer a lot. Under such compelling circumstances, it has become stressful for this traditional elderly caregiver to devote adequate time and effort both at work and back at home while taking care of the elderly along with other household activities.
A New Change
But we observe a shift in this ideology. Current younger population who once emptied the nest of their parents are reconnecting with their roots. Noticing this change in the present scenario, many corporates are now incorporating company policies and allocating funds to provide health benefits for their retirees. But unfortunately, companies have no idea about how much of that resource is absorbed by the retirees. This might be due to the problem of execution in the way the health care is being provided to them. The findings of the “Healthcare benefits in India: changing landscape” survey indicates that almost 96 percent of the companies provide medical coverage of some form to their employees and approximately 17 percent provide Post – Retirement Medical Benefits (PEMBs). In the recent past, the cost of such insurance cover has been increasing to the extent that medical cost inflation is expected to be around three to four times the general price inflation, in the future. Employee health care provision is at an interesting cross road trying to make ends meet – need for better benefits on one hand and cost control on the other. As a result, companies will have to apply serious thought to health care issues in the foreseeable future.
Generation the “Tech” forgot
There was a time when we used to look forward to meeting our friends, watch television together and and catching up with them. Today most human interaction has become virtual, and we have lost the human touch. Our parents and grandparents have not. They still live and love the time when Apple was just a fruit. To compensate for the lack of quality time together, our generation have come up with various technologies designed for the older generation. From hearing aids that use, GPS data to work out where the wearer is located and adjust volume accordingly, to Toyota robots that can carry the elderly around, and wireless sensors on mats that can alert relatives if someone stops moving around the house, we have done it all. But do older people want any of this? Especially when many have not even come to grips with the basic technologies and are often categorized as “non-tech- savvy” by their younger generation. Ian Hosking, an expert in design for the elderly at the University of Cambridge’s engineering design center, believes we need to get the basics right first. “There are some very tech-savvy older people around, but there is a large cohort of people who feel excluded by technology. They find it a bit impenetrable, intimidating and complicated” he says.
The Need to Change Health Care Approach For Our Elders
Elderly patients need someone who understands them, their health needs. In order to create delightful experience for the elderly, care providers have to also take a step back into the time when life was not so wireless. We need to provide elderly (non-tech savvy) clients the healthcare they deserve, through human touch.
Offer Human Support: Keep personalized human connection with each of the patients and ensure their needs are being met individually. This has proven to be an effective way to gratify and retain non tech-savvy patients.
Keep It Simple: To make the healthcare experience for elderly customers hassle free, the entire procedure including the conversation, service selection, and payment should be simple. While communicating with them, the service staff should avoid technical jargon and use simple terms.
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(The Views expressed here are my own and shouldn’t be construed as the views of any of my employers/partners, present or past.)
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