Old Age: Health Issues

  • Care for the elderly needs to be better targeted by the health system and social networks
National Health Policy (NHP), 2017:
  • It overlooks the rapid rise in the share of the old (60 years or more), and associated morbidities, especially sharply rising non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and disabilities.
  • With rising age, numerous physiological changes occur and the risk of chronic diseases rises.
  • It fails to make a distinction between the aged in general and those suffering from chronic conditions
  • Based on the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) 2015, among aged males and females, those suffering from NCDs nearly doubled during 2005-12
Non-communicable diseases:
  • The health system is ill-equipped to deal with surging NCDs
  • Staffs are not well trained to treat/advise the aged suffering from dementia or frailty
  • The quality of medical care is abysmal
  • Hospitalization costs are exorbitant and impoverishing.
  • Health insurance covers a fraction of medical expenses incurred.
  • A vast majority of those with NCDs had access to medical advice and treatment but the proportion remained unchanged during 2005-12 ,because
  • Heterogeneity in providers of medical help — from qualified doctors to faith healers and quacks
  • Sharp deterioration in the quality of medical services
Immunity and Loneliness:
  • Loneliness alters physiology at a more fundamental level.
  • Research shows that loneliness increases vascular resistance and diminishes immunity.
Networking as support
  • Today, ‘women are increasingly filling other roles, which limits the capacity of women and families to provide care for older people
  • Children often play an important role in elderly support
  • If social networks are instrumental in bonding together in periods of personal crises, this could compensate for a lack of family support
  • But lack of social harmony induces helplessness, disruption of medical supplies and network support.
Way forward
  • Health systems have to be configured to deal with not one NCD but multiple NCDs to manage them better.
  • The reconfigured medical system must be complemented by stronger family ties and social networks.
  • Need to create age-friendly environments that enable mobility and allow them to engage in basic activities.

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