Naidu calls for special drive to enroll senior citizens in 'Ayushman Bharat'
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu Monday described exorbitant costs of health care as a social crisis and said a survey should be conducted to find out the number of elderly people pushed into destitution and poverty due to high costs of prolonged treatment.
Naidu, in this context, said programmes like 'Ayushman Bharat' have come as a boon to elderly people and suggested that a special drive is launched to enrol senior citizens, especially from villages and rural areas.
He said that yoga and an affordable AYUSH system of medicine can help prevent and contain old-age-related ailments and these must be popularized particularly in rural and semi-urban areas.
Naidu conferred 'Vayoshreshtha Samman-2018' on eminent senior citizens and institutions in recognition of their services towards the cause of the elderly at an event organised by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on the occasion of 'International Day of Older Persons'.
He said that the need for comprehensive health care increases as the incidence of acute and chronic disease conditions worsen with advancing age.
Chronic but non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, arthritis, etc are more prevalent in the elderly and often require costly long-term treatment.
"This causes a drain on the economic capacity of the elderly persons themselves in their twilight years and also on their families. By one estimate, every year some five crore people fall under the poverty line due to costly treatment.
"I will suggest that a survey must be done...Exorbitant cost of health care is essentially a social crisis that needs to be resolved," Naidu said.
Though with advancements in medical sciences and improved technology, the longevity of people has increased from the average level of the 60s to 70s, we have not been able to provide commensurate social, economic, physical and health security to our elderly people, he said.
The VP stressed the need to promote and preserve the age-old joint family system, saying the inter-generational bonding has weakened due to the rapid proliferation of nuclear families and the urbanization of society.
India should revive its traditional family system and stand as a model for other countries, Naidu said.
The vice president also said that geriatric care should be a separate medical, nursing and physiotherapy discipline and suggested that hospitals should have separate geriatric departments and wards with specialists and paramedical staff.
Referring to the various schemes of government to provide support to the elderly, Naidu said, "I will suggest that the quality of services provided under government schemes must be ensured and coverage should be expanded. The processes of availing the benefits of such government schemes should be easy. We cannot expect our elderly citizens to run around the office at that age to avail the benefits."
Agencies and hospitals concerned must use digital technology to facilitate people in availing these schemes. The government may also hire volunteers, school students to help elderly people, he suggested.
"It is indeed a tragic irony that your income sources are restricted when you need them the most to meet your age-related expenses like health care," he said.
He also suggested exploring the possibility of increasing the interest rate under the 'Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana', a pension scheme for the elderly that are being implemented by LIC of India, to 12 per cent on a fixed maximum amount.
He expressed disappointment about the fact that a legislation -- "Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007" -- had to be brought for enforcing the natural social norm of caring for our elders and sharing their burden.
"Parents will hate to evoke legal measures against their own children. But the very need for such a legislative measure indicates the crisis and marginalization our elders face in their families.
"I am told that the Act is being suitably amended to make more effective and beneficial. I also understand that the government is finalizing a new national policy for senior citizens," he said.
Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot on Monday morning flagged off a "Walkthon" for older persons and senior citizens to celebrate the International Day of Older Persons at Commonwealth Games Village Stadium, near Akshardham Mandir.