Isolation, both of the social and emotional kind, is one of the main aftermath of fast changing socio-economic and demographic scenario experienced by older people, according to a findings of a recent study conducted in Delhi and its surrounding region.
"83.8 per cent of older persons were found isolated in old age (60 plus age group) in Delhi and NCR. They said that they feel isolated or experience loneliness in their present
life," said the study conducted by Agewell Foundation.
The study aims at understanding the present status and needs of older persons in Delhi and NCR with fast changing socio-economic and demographic scenario, growing popularity of nuclear families and fast changing traditional value system, needs of older persons have also changed vehemently.
It took a representative sample of 15000 older persons (7710 older men and 7290 older women) who were subject to interviews conducted from September to October in 2012.
"Delhi-NCR has a total population of over 2 crore and more than 8 per cent of this consists of older persons (above 60). Delhi alone has an elderly population of over 12 lakh," says the study titled "Comprehensive study on status of older persons Delhi-NCR."
"Level of isolation in old age of older persons living in urban areas was quite higher upto 89.8 per cent in comparison to older persons of rural areas, where 77.6 per cent people reportedly feel isolated," it said
A majority of older persons (44.2 per cent) interviewed said "no or less interaction with family members or within society" is major cause of their state of isolation.
A total of 37.5 per cent elderly say they feel isolated because they were living alone or with their spouse only.
The populace of 60 plus years was randomly selected according according to rural elderly and urban elderly and again categorised into males and females.
According to the recent report on UN Population Fund India had 90 million elderly people in 2011, with the number expected to grow to 173 million by 2026.
Meanwhile, in the Agewell study, urban areas seemed to fare poorer than their rural counterparts for senior citizens.
"In urban areas of Delhi and NCR 44 percent older personswere reported isolated socially as well as emotionally. Here older persons were much affected by emotional isolation (26 per cent) than social isolation (25 per cent)," quotes the study.
In rural areas 20.8 older persons were found socially isolated and 19 per cent older persons were emotionally isolated. Also, in villages of Delhi and NCR 36 per cent older persons reported social as well emotional isolation.
"No or less interaction with family members or within society" is the major cause of their state of isolation or loneliness in Delhi and NCR," it said.
44.2 per cent of those surveyed said that no or less interaction with family members or within society is major cause of their state of isolation or loneliness.
The study quotes a couple Pankaj Luthra (75)and Nirmala Devi (71) residing in Gurgaon. "Old Age has become hell for us due to mistreatment of our daughter-in-law with us. For sake of happiness of our son and grand-children, we prefer to keep quiet and ignore her (daughter-in-law's) misbehavior."
Isolation and loneliness impacted health of the elderly with 43 per cent saying that they are facing depression due to those factors.
"Every third older person facing loneliness in Delhi and NCR was found in poor health condition because of loneliness and less interaction with people. 36 per cent older persons said that their health have deteriorated further since they felt alone," the study cited.
From the study it has been found that as consumers older persons expended most of their money in medical products and services, financial instruments, consumer durables or household goods as well as services.
To assess the ever-changing trends of old age and needs of older persons, older persons were asked about their desire to change the things for better old age or adapt in the present environment or conditions.
"90.32 per cent older persons said that they want to change things accordingly, so that they can better their old age. Only 9.68 per cent older persons were in favour of adjustment with present environment or conditions," the study said.
"At the age of 75, when I need family support, I am forced to live alone. My sons are settled in towns but they have no place for their parent" says Ashok Kumar Bhadoria (75 years) who resides in Janakpuri and quoted in the study.
Peculiar issues that have deep affect in life of older persons like intergenerational gap, religious life of older persons, financial, medical and social status of older persons, legal and human rights status, old age engagement, role of older persons in democratic process, wisdom of old age, etc were also the focus of the study.
It was found that the major problematic areas in old age were social environment, medical and legal set up financial status, psychological condition, interpersonal relations as well as religion and spirituality.