Experts call for better senior care; warn of dipping life expectancy

Experts call for better senior care; warn of dipping life expectancy

India faces a unique population scenario - it will have the largest population of citizens above 65 by 2020, but at the same time the average life expectancy of Indians is falling.

Experts asked the government and policy makers to factor the growing needs of the elderly in order to be prepared.

According to experts, India’s average life expectancy about 65, ten years less than those in developed countries. Among the reasons for this are a poor health care system and a dramatic shift in lifestyles, problems common in developing countries.

Dr V P Rao, convenor of BioGenesis Health Cluster, said the population of senior citizens in India is expected to reach about 9 per cent by 2020.

He asked the Planning Commission and policy makers to address the issue of caring for an older populace. Preventing diseases and increasing public awareness was the need of the hour, he said.

Rao also said it was important to further geriatrics, the branch of medicine that addresses the needs of older patients, as a special subject in medical education. He added that all government medical colleges were expected to start MD course in geriatrics next year.

Dr Anoop Amarnath, director and consultant of geriatric medicine at Apollo Hospital said a study conducted by the hospital in 2009 on a sample size of 150 senior citizens had revealed that 65 per cent had received inappropriate prescriptions. Another study in 2010 had revealed that the progression of kidney diseases was 2.5 times faster in Indians when compared to the developed world.

Older Indians were grappling with chronic diseases like diabetes (highest prevalence globally), hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart problems, cancer and dementia.
There were growing instances of these cases because the Indian health care system failed to address daily management of diseases, he added.

Governor H R Bhardwaj said the Indian health care system did not cater to the needs of the elderly, especially the poor. He said the government should step in and take measures like providing insurance cover.

“Senior citizens are the country’s greatest asset. They have to be respected and taken care of well by the government. We should find ways and means to restore dignity to the senior citizens. Further doctors and lawyers have become very money-minded and no ordinary person can bear such expenses,” he added.

To understand geriatrics and related problems, BioGenesis Health Cluster and Federation of Asian Biotech Association (FABA) are organising the first international conference – ‘Healthy ageing in the changing world 2012’, in Bangalore on September 29.

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