International Day for Older Persons: Challenges for India

On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons (resolution 45/106). This was preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later that year by the UN General Assembly. The overall umbrella theme for the United Nations International Day of Older Persons in 2023 is Fulfilling the Promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Older Persons

The world is undergoing a major demographic transition with the population of the elderly rising rapidly. Already, people over 60 years of age exceed children under 5, and by 2050 they will outnumber children under 15. Even as fertility rates dip across the world, life expectancy has increased by more than 6 years between 2000 and 2019, according to the United Nations. This transition has been accompanied by an increase in the number of mental health issues among the elderly. Approximately 15 per cent of all adults aged 60 and above globally suffer from a mental disorder, finds the UN.


Population ageing is taking place in nearly all the countries of the world. By 2050, nearly 8 in 10 of the world’s older population will live in the less developed regions.

While global ageing can be seen as a symbol of medical, social, and economic advances and also has major health, social and economic consequences over the past half century, it also represents a significant policy challenge.

      According to the 2011 census, the 60+ population accounted for 8.6% of India’s total population or 103.84 million elderly

                  India’s elderly population (aged 60 and above) is projected to touch 194 million in 2031 from 138 million in 2021, a 41 per cent increase over a decade, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO)’s Elderly in India 2021 report. The percentage share of the elderly population in the total population is said to rise from 8.6 per cent in 2011 to 10.1 per cent in 2021 and is projected to touch 13.1 per cent in 2031.

            According to the report, Kerala currently has the highest elderly population (16.5 per cent), followed by Tamil Nadu (13.6 per cent), Himachal Pardesh (13.1 per cent), Punjab (12.6 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (12.4 per cent) in 2021.

        The process whereby the proportion of children in the population decreases and those of old persons increases is known as the “ageing of population”. General improvement in the health care facilities over the years is one of the main reasons for continuing increase in proportion of population of senior citizens.. Ensuring that they not merely live longer, but lead a secure, dignified and productive life is a major challenge.

Changing Social Structure and Institutions

  Indian society is undergoing rapid transformation under the impact of industrialization, urbanization, technical and technological change, education and globalization.

Consequently, the traditional values and institutions are in the process of erosion and adaptation, resulting in the weakening of intergenerational ties that were the hallmark of the traditional family.

Economic Problems

Economic factors definitely play a major role in generating care for elderly people. Economic dependence is one of the major factors that very often affects the well-being of older persons.

Psychological Problems

The common psychological problems that most older persons experience are: feeling of powerlessness, feelings of inferiority, depression, uselessness, isolation and reduced competence. These problems along with social disabilities like widowhood, societal prejudice and segregation aggravate the frustration of elderly people.

Health Problems

Health problems are supposed to be the major concern of society as older people are more prone to suffer from ill health than younger age groups. It is often claimed that ageing is accompanied by multiple illnesses and physical ailments. Besides physical illness, the aged are more likely to be victims of poor mental health, which arises from senility, neurosis and extent of life satisfaction.
Ageing is predominantly a women’s problem. Not only do women live longer but most of them are widows. They face serious discrimination with respect to their rights and are overburdened with familial responsibilities. This adversely affects their health, nutrition and mental well-being.

   The year 1999 was declared by the UN as the International Year of Older Persons followed on 13th Jan 1999, by the Government of India approving the National Policy for Older Persons for accelerating welfare measures and empowering the elderly in ways beneficial to them. Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 provides legal
sanctions for the rights of the elderly. In addition, constitutional provisions for old age security, old age pension, establishing old age homes, expanding geriatric services, and liberalizing housing policy for elders have also been undertaken.

Relevant Constitutional Provisions

Article 41 of the Constitution provides that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.

Article 47 provides that the State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.

The National Programme for Health Care of Elderly and Health and Wellness Centres under the Ayushman Bharat programme provide dedicated healthcare to the elderly at primary healthcare settings.


National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP), 1999 The Government of India adopted the ‘National Policy on Older Persons’ in January 1999. The policy defines ‘senior citizen’ or ‘elderly’ as a person who is of age 60 years or above.The National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP) was announced in January 1999 to reaffirm the commitment to ensure the well-being of older persons. The Policy envisages State support to ensure financial and
food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons, equitable share in development, protection against abuse and exploitation, and availability of services to improve the quality of their lives. 

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was enacted in December 2007, to ensure need-based maintenance for parents and senior citizens and their welfare. The Act provides for: – • Maintenance of Parents/ senior citizens by children/ relatives made obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals • Revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence by relatives • Penalprovision for abandonment of senior citizens • Establishment of Old Age Homes for Indigent Senior Citizens • Adequate medical facilities and security for Senior Citizens.


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