'Aging' Kerala mulls panel for senior citizens ? ? ?

Kerala, which has around 42 lakh senior citizens, may soon have an exclusive commission to deal with issues of elderly people on the model of women, youth and child rights' panels.

The LDF government is actively considering the plan to set up the panel along with implementing several other initiatives for senior citizens in view of increasing complaints of atrocities and harassment against them.

Interestingly, Kerala was one of the earliest states to have introduced an 'Old Age Policy' in 2006 for senior citizens to ensure maximum welfare measures for them.

State Social Justice Minister K K Shylaja told PTI that the Left government would take a suitable decision in this regard at the earliest.

According to the Census 2011, the proportion of elderly people (aged 60 years and above) in India is 8.6% of the total population. However, in Kerala, almost 13% of the total population is already past 60 years, it said.

Currently, 42 lakh people of the state are 60 and above, 13% of them are 80 years and over, the fastest growing group among the old, the State Economic Review 2017 said.

Problems faced by senior citizens have always been there in society as an effective government-level intervention was lacking to address this before, Shylaja said.

"After this government came to power, we have made the laws for their protection and ensure their rights more stringent. The setting up of a Commission for elderly is under our active consideration," the minister said.

"As it is a policy matter, the cabinet has to take a final decision on this," she said, adding that the constitution of such a panel is expected to resolve several issues regarding senior citizens.

Detailing various programmes being implemented by the LDF government for the elderly, Shylaja said a series of workshops had been conducted recently to create awareness on the legal and other rights of senior citizens.

'Sayamprabha Home', a new initiative to provide day care facilities for the aged and 'Vayo Amrutham', which ensures treatment for inmates of old age homes are some of the significant schemes, being implemented by the social justice department, she said.

The minister also pointed out that though the state had introduced an Old Age Policy in 2006 and came out with a newer one in 2013, the worries and concerns of senior citizens had been left unanswered to a large extent all these years.

With the increasing number of elderly citizens, the culture of sending them to old age homes is also fast developing in Kerala. The total number of old-age homes in Kerala is 15 and the sanctioned bed strength is 1,125, as per official figures.

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