Caring for the Silver Generation

The most populous country on the planet, India, is home to more than 1.4 billion people. Recently, India has witnessed a sudden change in its demographic. More and more people are crossing the age of 60 every day, and the elderly population is rapidly growing. According to the ‘Senior Care Reforms in India’ report of NITI Aayog, India will have around 319 million people above the age of 60 by 2050, accounting for almost 20% of the country’s total population. However, this is a big problem, and the country’s medical infrastructure is incapable of taking care of the Silver Tsunami about to hit India. There are many challenges we have to face and a lot of opportunities we have to capitalise on. 

One of the biggest challenges is that most elderly people or people above 60 have some sort of chronic disease. The Senior Care Reforms in India also mentions that the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India conducted a survey that concluded that around 75% of elderly people in India deal with at least one or more chronic diseases. These chronic diseases include diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and arthritis, which require specialised care and take a toll on the country’s healthcare resources. Another challenge faced by the healthcare sector is the availability and affordability of the treatments. As per a book written by Subhojit Dey, Devaki Nambiar, J. K. Lakshmi, Kabir Sheikh, and K. Srinath Reddy, a large portion of the elderly population of India resides in the rural area of the country, which makes it hard for the healthcare sector to provide geriatric treatments to the elderly. On top of that, high prices of treatment, inadequate financial security and lack of a proper healthcare program create a barrier between the elderly and the appropriate treatment they require. 

Technology gives a glimmer of hope with its remote monitoring and telehealth services, but discrepancies in its availability pose a greater threat. Most of the ageing people are not proficient with technology, and the changing dynamics of Indian families are prioritising nuclear families, leaving the technically illiterate elders on their own. That being said, technology is our most trustworthy bet in order to cater to the medical needs of the ageing population of India. Technology can make remote monitoring easy, which will help in recognizing the vital and early signs of a disease. Moreover, telehealth services will be able to cater to the medical needs of ageing people. One of the best examples of Healthcare leader performing their roles is the eSanjiivni Telemedicine initiative of the Public Health Foundation of India, which provides basic health screening and connects patients in rural areas with doctors for consultation. Fortis Hospital also offers a similar telehealth service called Fortis Tele-Consult.

Another opportunity India has to capitalise on is community-based care models. This is when the communities of India will join hands and take the healthcare initiative into their own hands. These can be non-profit organisations and NGOs. One of the best examples of community-based care models is the care model from one of India’s top healthcare NGOs, 

HelpAge India. This Non Government Organisation provides checkups, physiotherapy and social activities for seniors. 

However, none of this is possible or useful without an infrastructure of a qualified or skilled workforce. This is another challenge people face in India: a lack of skilled workforce. By skilled workforce, we are talking about doctors, nurses, and caregivers. However, this is where organisations like the Geriatric Society Of India come into play. This organization offer training programs to healthcare professionals who want to specialise in geriatric care and address the need for a skilled workforce. Moreover, the National Institute For Social Health (NISH) provides training programs for caregivers and equips them with the necessary information and skills to care for the elderly. 

India is moving towards a Silver Tsunami, but the best part is that people and organisations from every sect of the country are willing to come together and fight this growing problem. Many healthcare leaders, like Fortis and SRL Diagnostics, are also performing their duty. SRL Diagnostics has introduced a service where elders can book lap tests online and get their reports and consultations online as well. Even telecommunication companies are coming forward to help India in this grave situation. Vodafone allows citizens to book doctor appointments, order medicines and access healthcare information.

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