Lead a dignified life in your autumn years

Lead a dignified life in your autumn years
India has the world’s second-largest population of elderly people above 60 years of age and, by 2050, it is projected that approximately 20% of 1.3 billion Indians will be senior citizens. The significant increase in the number of elderly — due to increase in life expectancy — is likely to put immense pressure on healthcare services and also impact the socioeconomic development of the country.

A majority of elderly people, apart from health issues, face financial difficulties and are mostly dependent on their family members for financial, emotional and physical support. According to a recent survey by Agewell Foundation, an NGO working towards the welfare of the old and the infirm, a majority of elderly people cite pension as their main source of income, which is barely enough to meet their needs.

Economic insecurity has been seen to cause mental stress on old people, who are often reluctant to approach others or their own children for funds. In many cases, the elderly are left to fend for themselves, as their children have either moved out or abandoned them. They are often forced to spend their twilight years in the solitary confines of their homes, or in old-age homes.

In most cases, though, all that elderly people need is emotional sanctuary, the care, comfort and companionship of loved ones. And when they don’t find it, they turn to support groups or others  of their own age and with similar problems.

Among other findings, the survey revealed that health was the most critical risk factor for the 60 years and above. Four-fifth of the 15,000 urban and rural respondents said that most of their financial problems were related to medical and healthcare issues. 

As age advances, so does vulnerability to sickness and crippling expenses. The best way for the elderly to protect themselves against a medical and financial emergency is to purchase a Senior Citizen Health Insurance Policy of up to Rs 10 lakh. The sum assured can be more depending on the insurance company.

The insurance plan comes with a range of benefits, including absence of pre-insurance medical tests, coverage of pre-existing diseases from second year onwards, and medical consultations as an outpatient in a network of hospitals, which considerably reduces the financial strain on the elderly and allows them to lead a less stressful life.

While many insurance players provide senior citizen health insurance cover, the real challenge is to look for a policy that offers the best benefits. Some of the important factors to consider while buying a policy are:

Sum insured: One must buy a policy with a substantial cover, for higher the face value, higher the final coverage provided.

Coverage: The plan should cover a broad spectrum of illnesses, particularly critical illnesses, and offer maximum coverage with minimum exceptions.

Waiting periods: Many policies have waiting periods for specific diseases and specifically for those that are pre-existing. Care should be taken to opt for policies that have the minimum waiting period.

Hospital network: Opt for a plan that includes a wide network of hospitals specialising in a range of medical treatments and consultations.

Premiums: Compare the rates of policies offered by various insurers and buy one that not only fits your budget but also provides maximum benefits.

Other factors: Look for pre-insurance medical tests, pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses and lifetime renewal of policy.

To sum up, health insurance is like a roof over one’s head, more so for senior citizens who can spend their post-retirement years without stress of constantly worrying over their finances, in the event of a health scare. Above all, insurance allows the elderly to lead their life with dignity.

(The writer is Chairman cum Managing Director at Star Health Insurance)

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