Magdali Dhan, 68, lives in Bala village of Sunagi Panchayat in Jharkhand. A few years ago, she lost her husband. Childless, Magdali has no one to call her own. Some time ago, she developed problems with her eyesight. Old, poor and alone — Magdhali, did not have the means or the access for medical treatment. She approached her village panchayat, but to no avail.

Luckily, Magdhali, found a friend in Santoshi Kumari – a ‘Vridha Mitra’ (friend of the elderly) in Bala village. Santoshi is one of the many Vridha Mitras operating in 25 villages of the Karra Block in Khunti district, Jharkhand. Their work is to reach out to the elderly population and be a friend to them. Their work includes, helping them getting linked to old age pension scheme, health insurance (Ayushman Bharat), organizing multi-speciality health camps, creating income generation opportunities and organizing them into groups.

Magdali attended a few meetings organised by Santoshi Kumari. Soon she reached out to Santoshi and told her about health issue. Magdali was then invited to attend a health camp, where she was diagnosed with cataract. Her Vridha Mitra, Santoshi ensured that Magdali went to the hospital and gets her surgery done. Magdali now has a clear vision. With Santoshi’s help, she has also applied for a pension scheme.

Magdali is one of the several beneficiaries of the Nation Supports Elderly project, which was supported by NSE Foundation and OneStage and implemented by Nidan in Khunti district of Jharkhand. The project benefited over 5,000 senior citizens from the district, who were struggling with health and financial issues.

Before the project was implemented, OneStage conducted an assessment on the socio-economic and health status of the elderly in Jharkhand focusing on Karra block of Khunti district, which is also one of aspirational districts as recognized by the government of India. Jharkhand is one of the eight backward states, with 7.1 percent of the state’s population comprising elderlies.

A survey from Jharkhand showed that people faced trouble in applying for or receiving pension under the Indira Gandhi National Old Page Pension Scheme (IGNOPS) and Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS). Besides this, people have also faced issues related to delayed payments, inability to avail services, despite applying multiple times etc.

There is an urgent need to simplify and streamline the application process so that eligible pensioners can access their entitlements with ease. More interventions like Nation Supports Elderly are therefore, the need of the hour.

The focus of this intervention has been to create awareness among the senior citizens via Vridha Mitras, who reached out to senior citizens through door-to-door campaigns, gram sabhas and spread awareness about health and financial inclusion. A resource booklet was also created for the same.

The elderly in the 25 villages were successfully linked to schemes like Old Age Pension and Ayushman Bharat so that they could avail their benefits. Health camps were organised to provide them with better healthcare services. To enable them to advocate for their rights and entitlements Elderly Self Help Groups (ESHs) and Vridha Sangha (Federation of Elderly with representatives from ESHGs) were formed.

In a developing country like India the proportion of Indians aged 60 and older will rise from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.1 percent in 2025 as per a UN Report in 2010, India had more than 91.6 million elderlies. The number is projected to reach 158.7 million by 2025. The report says that care for the elderly is fast emerging as a critical element of both the public and private concern.

To top it all, family structures have transformed. More nuclear families have left older people with fewer options for care. Patterns of work and retirement are shifting. Population aging will have dramatic effects on social entitlement programs, labour supply, trade, and savings around the globe and may demand new fiscal approaches to accommodate a changing world.

Globally, as per a report published by National Institute on Aging in 2006,almost 500 million people worldwide were 65 years and older. By 2030, that total is projected to increase to 1 billion, which means one in every eight of the earth’s inhabitant will be a senior citizen.

Old age is a sensitive phase. The elderly need care and comfort to lead a healthy life without worries and anxiety. They have a lot to worry about — financial and personal security, health challenges, mental health and self-actualization. The problems increase manifold, when they are coupled with poverty. The elderly benefitted through the ‘Nation Supports Elderly’ project got a new lease of life in their autumn years. Soon the world will have a large population of senior citizens in need of care, and such projects need to be replicated to ensure a good quality of life to the senior citizens.


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