Mumbai: The proposed draft policy for senior citizens prepared by the Maharashtra government has lowered the initial age limit category for the elderly from 65 to 60 years, while focusing on their welfare without isolating them in old-age homes.
The impetus is on female elderly especially their health care, sources in the Social Justice department told a news agency.
Among the highlights include setting up of "Gerentology department", where a separate ward for treating old age related ailments like Alzheimer`s disease would be mandatory in hospitals.
"Ten per cent of the beds in hospitals should be reserved for the elderly," sources said, adding the ailments of the elderly are generally neglected.
The state government plans to write to the Union Ministry of company affairs that private companies and MNCs be asked to take up projects for the welfare of the elderly under their corporate social responsibility fund.
Sources said, there are 32 government-aided old age homes in the state, which were started during the Sena-BJP rule. However, many have been facing tough times because the maintenance grants were irregular after being provided with the construction grant.
"The government now plans to revive the old age homes. At present, 27 old age homes are functioning," they said.
Dinesh Waghmare, Secretary (Social Justice and Special Assistance) confirmed that such a draft policy has been prepared. "The policy will be tabled in the cabinet soon for approval," he added.
Waghmare said, the draft policy envisages quota for the elderly in CIDCO, MHADA housing projects, concessions in MTDC guest houses, availing facilities in government aided libraries free of cost, setting up of parks and footpath
benches for them.
He said, the policy aims to retain the elderly at home, provide them with welfare there and discourage setting up of more external institutions (old-age homes) for them, which isolate and separate them from their families.
The policy also proposes barrier free constructions in urban development. "City development should be senior citizen friendly," Waghmare said.
There is also a proposal to set up a toll free helpline in district headquarters and police commissionerates for senior citizens.
He said, the Sub-divisional officer (SDO) in the revenue divisions of the state have been appointed as the sub-divisional magistrate for heading the tribunal for
redressal of grievances of the elderly. The provision of a Tribunal is one of the highlights of the Centre`s legislation, The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens act.
According to Waghmare, there are many elderly persons, who live alone. There is a proposal that police along with NGO representative visit the elderly in their jurisdiction periodically and prepare a data base.
He said, the senior citizens and elderly constitute 10 per cent of the total population in the state.
Waghmare said, the draft proposal has categorised senior citizens in three groups, 60 to 70 years, 70 to 80 years and 80 and above.
"This will ensure that maximum utilisation of welfare schemes for the senior citizens," he said.
Referring to the Indira Gandhi National Pension scheme for senior citizens below BPL, Waghmare said, at present the pension amount is of Rs 200 from the central government and Rs 400 from the state government.
As per the proposal, elderly in the age of group of 70 to 80 will get Rs 800 and those above 80 years will get Rs 1000.
Currently, 11.6 lakh elderly above the age group of 65 under BPL benefit from the Pension scheme. With the lowering of age limit, more 50,000 beneficiaries will be added. The expected burden on expenditure will be nearly Rs 400 crore, Waghmare said.