Practice Question – Discuss the problems of elderly in India. What are the different perspectives to solve their problems?   (UPSC 2015) 

Approach – Introduction, List the problems of the elderly, Give context to problems of old age specifically (or amplified) in India, Give different perspectives to solve the said issues, Conclusion.



The number and proportion of people aged 60 years and older in the population is increasing. In 2019, the number of people aged 60 years and older was 1 billion. This number will increase to 1.4 billion by 2030 and 2.1 billion by 2050. This increase is occurring at an unprecedented pace and will accelerate in coming decades, particularly in developing countries. This historically significant change in the global population requires adaptations to the way societies are structured across all sectors. For example, health and social care, transportation, housing and urban planning. Working to make the world more age friendly is an essential and urgent part of our changing demographics.



Ageing can be sociologically defined as the combination of biological, psychological and social processes that affect people, as they grow older. Gerontology is studying the aging and the elderly in the population. It is derived from the Greek word geron, meaning “old person. Gerontologists work in many disciplines, including medicine, psychology, and sociology investigate not only how people change as they grow old but also the different ways in which societies around the world define old age. Growing old is a complex and gradual process having biological, psychological and social dimensions, which not only do not fully correspond with one another but also do not exactly coincide with one’s chronological age. It is, however, true that the chronological age is an index of the growing and developmental process that goes on in the biological, psychological and sociological dimensions, and, therefore, the chronological definition of what constitutes old age is useful for purposes of study.



Ageing is not an event but a process. For the development theorists and practitioners ageing is one of the most neglected issues mainly because aged people are considered as disempowered and non-resourceful persons. They are not considered as a class category or status group neither by economists nor by sociologists. Though ageing is universal, till a  decade back ageing is considered as natural and evolutionary process and hence it is not taken seriously. Till 1980s the problems of the old were not known to the state in the developing countries and therefore they were not attended. There are many ways to reduce the child population whereas the old population cannot be stopped as the developing countries like Asian countries methodically ignored the structure of the population. Ageing can generally be described as the process of growing old and is an intricate part of the life cycle. Basically it is a multi-dimensional process and affects almost every aspect of human life. Introduction to the study of human ageing have typically emphasized changes in demography focusing on the ageing of population- a trend, which has characterized industrial societies throughout the twentieth century but in recent decades, has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Edward J. Stieglitz (1960) defines ageing as `the element of time in living‘. According to him,  ageing is a part of living. Ageing begins with conception and terminates with death.
It cannot be arrested unless we arrest life.
According to Tibbitts (1960) ageing may be best defined as the survival of a growing number of people who have completed the traditional roles of making a living and child rearing and years following the completion of these tasks represent an extension of life.‖ He also says, ageing is an inevitable and irreversible biological process.



Chronological ageing refers to the number of years since someone was born Chronological age also provides individuals with a means of distinguishing roles and relationships in terms of the behaviour and expectations that are linked to different chronological groupings.

Biological ageing often known as senescence (declines of a cell or organism due to ageing) and sometimes functional ageing, refers to biological events occurring across time which progressively impair the physiological system so that the organism becomes less able to withstand disease, ultimately increasing its susceptibility to death. From this perspective, the ageing process stems from several physiological factors, and is modified throughout the life course by environmental factors (such as nutrition), experiences of disease, genetic factors and life stage. This is usually associated with decline in the regulation and proper functioning of the vital organs of the body.

Psychological ageing focuses upon changes that occur during adulthood to an individual‘s personality, mental functioning (e.g. memory, learning and intelligence) and
sensory and perceptual processes. Jegede stated that the indices of psychological ageing include feelings, motivation, memory, emotions, and experience and self-identify.

Social ageing refers to the changing experiences that individuals will encounter in their roles and relationships with other people and as members of broader social structures
(such as a religious group) as they pass through different phases of their life course. In sociological ageing, personal or attitude and interaction within the community are used
to assess a person‘s maturation and ageing. As a person ages socially, he/she calculates his/her utterances, limits the use of vulgar language, prunes relationship to mature friends, changes his/her mode of dressing, reduces nocturnal clubs. As a person ages socially, he/she tends to be guided by the norms of the society to which the person belongs. As an individual experience, social ageing affects perceptions of who we are, but can also be shaped or constructed by social and cultural contexts which dictate the normative expectations about the roles, positions and behaviour of older people in society.



Women are the majority of the older population in virtually all nations and face different circumstances and challenges than men as they age. Older women are more likely to be widowed, to live alone, and to live in poverty. Older women tend to have lower educational attainment, less formal labor force experience, and more family caregiving responsibilities than do older men. On the global level, women make up just over half of the age group 60-69, but they account for 65 percent of the oldest old (80 years and older). The term the feminization of later life has been used to describe how women predominate at older ages and how the proportions increase with advancing age. Throughout much of the world, women tend to marry men older than themselves. This, combined with higher female life expectancy, increases the chances that a woman will outlive her spouse and spend a portion of her older years living on her own or with adult children. In most countries, older women are much more likely to be widowed than are older men.



Common conditions in older age include hearing loss, cataracts and refractive errors, back and neck pain and osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia. Furthermore, as people age, they are more likely to experience several conditions at the same time. Older age is also characterized by the emergence of several complex health states that tend to occur only later in life and that do not fall into discrete disease categories. These are commonly called geriatric syndromes. They are often the consequence of multiple underlying factors and include frailty, urinary incontinence, falls, delirium and pressure ulcers. Geriatric syndromes appear to be better predictors of death than the presence or number of specific diseases. Yet outside of countries that have developed geriatric medicine as a speciality, they are often overlooked in traditionally structured health services and in epidemiological research.




Old age is a period of physical decline. Even if one does not become sans eyes, sans teeth, sans everything, right away, one does begin to slow down physically. The physical condition depends partly upon hereditary constitution, the manner of living and environmental factors. Vicissitudes of living, faulty diet, malnutrition, infectious, intoxications, gluttony, inadequate rest, emotional stress, overwork, endocrine disorders and environmental conditions like heat and cold are some of the common secondary causes of physical decline.


Mental disorders are very much associated with old age. Older people are susceptible to psychotic depressions. The two major psychotic disorders of older people are senile dementia (associated with cerebral atrophy and degeneration) and psychosis with cerebral arterio sclerosis (associated with either blocking or ruptures in the cerebral arteries). It has been observed that these two disorders account for approximately 80% of the psychotic disorders among older people in the civilized societies.


Decline in mental ability makes them dependent. They no longer have trust in their own ability or judgements but still they want to tighten their grip over the younger ones. They want to get involved in all family matters and business issues. Due to generation gap the youngsters do not pay attention to their suggestion and advice. Instead of developing a sympathetic attitude towards the old, they start asserting their rights and power. This may create a feeling of deprivation of their dignity and importance.


Older people suffer social losses greatly with age. Their social life is narrowed down by loss of work associated, death of relatives, friends and spouse and weak health which restricts their participation in social activities. The home becomes the centre of their social life which gets confined to the interpersonal relationship with the family members. Due to loss of most of the social roles they once performed, they are likely to be lonely and isolated severe chromic health problem enable them to become socially isolated which results in loneliness and depression.


Retirement from service usually results in loss of income and the pensions that the elderly receive are usually inadequate to meet the cost of living which is always on the rise. With the reduced income they are reversed from the state of “Chief bread winner to a mere dependent” though they spend their provident fund on marriages of children, acquiring new property, education of children and family maintenance. 



  1. Community based care.
  2.  Social security net by states.
  3. Old age homes with scientifically trained caretakers.
  4. Jobs after their retirements suiting their interests.
  5. Activities for socialisation. 
  6. Wards in hospitals exclusively for the care of elderly.
  7. Counselling sessions.
  8. Awareness about health and nutrition.
  9. Investment and Insurance products for old age benefits.





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