Half of elders in Odisha work out of economic compulsion

Nearly half of Odisha's elderly population continue to work in their old age due to economic compulsion and only 20 percent of them choose to do so, a study by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has found.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 03, 2014, 10:27 AM IST

Bhubaneswar: Nearly half of Odisha's elderly population continue to work in their old age due to economic compulsion and only 20 percent of them choose to do so, a study by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has found.

The report - 'Status of Elderly in Odisha', the first of its kind in the state, said 10 percent of the elderly experienced abuse with the number of women being higher than that of men.

"Sadly most of the abuse was inflicted by family members particularly the sons," said the report, released by Odisha Women and Child Development Minister Usha Devi here yesterday.

The report covers seven states having a higher proportion of elderly population in the country. Apart from Odisha, the other states covered in it are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

The encouraging observation in the study is that the coverage of national pension schemes is among the highest in these states.

Around 60 percent of the elderly women from BPL households were availing of widow pension, while 44 percent of the elderly men of the same category were receiving old age pension benefits.

With regard to their health status, the study said around half of the elderly in Odisha suffer from chronic morbidity, highest being arthritis followed by hypertension. Diabetes and heart ailments are more common among the urban elderly.

The report also observed that majority of the elderly availed public health facilities for treatment. The worrying fact was that in spite of using public health care system, the cost of health care has been significant.

Although three-fourth of the elderly reside with their children, the psychological distress among them was found to be relatively high with around two third suffering from mental stress.

The study in Odisha was part of a larger initiative 'Building Knowledge Base on Population Ageing in India' undertaken by UNFPA India in collaboration with Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

UNFPA Representative for India and Bhutan, Frederika Meijer, in her address said many countries including India are not prepared for the demographic shift.

Evidences from round the globe show that the elderly are not a burden but with the right policies they could make significant contribution to the society, she said.

Referring to the scenario in Odisha, Meijer said the state has 3.98 million elderly persons aged 60 years and above constituting 9.5 percent of the total population against a national average of 8.5 percent.

Around 86 percent of the elderly population of Odisha live in rural areas. Their number will increase to 6.27 million by 2016 and constitute 13.8 percent of the state's total population.

The report suggested that policy and programme interventions should consider various dimensions of vulnerability faced by the elderly in the state such as poverty, economic compulsion to work, widowhood, high level of dependency, age related morbidity and high health care costs.

Income insecurity and a high degree of dependency result in significant vulnerability among the elderly in general and elderly women in particular given the high proportion of widows in the state, the report said.

It suggested measures to improve the coverage of social security schemes to all elderly from BPL households and to reduce the financial burden of health care to effect a difference in the lives of the elderly.