Over the years, the government has launched various schemes and policies for older persons. These schemes and policies are meant to promote the health, well–being and independence of senior citizens around the country. Some of these programmes have been enumerated below.
The central government came out with the National Policy for Older Persons in 1999 to promote the health and welfare of senior citizens in India. This policy aims to encourage individuals to make provision for their own as well as their spouse’s old age. It also strives to encourage families to take care of their older family members. The policy enables and supports voluntary and non–governmental organizations to supplement the care provided by the family and provide care and protection to vulnerable elderly people. Health care, research, creation of awareness and training facilities to geriatric caregivers have also been enumerated under this policy. The main objective of this policy is to make older people fully independent citizens.
This policy has resulted in the launch of new schemes such as
- Strengthening of primary health care system to enable it to meet the health care needs of older persons
- Training and orientation to medical and paramedical personnel in health care of the elderly.
- Promotion of the concept of healthy ageing.
- Assistance to societies for production and distribution of material on geriatric care.
- Provision of separate queues and reservation of beds for elderly patients in hospitals.
- Extended coverage under the Antyodaya Scheme with emphasis on provision of food at subsidized rates for the benefit of older persons especially the destitute and marginalized sections.
The Integrated Programme for Older Persons is a scheme that provides financial assistance up to 90 per cent of the project cost to non–governmental organizations or NGOs as on March 31, 2007. This money is used to establish and maintain old age homes, day care centres, mobile Medicare units and to provide non–institutional services to older persons. The scheme also works towards other needs of older persons such as reinforcing and strengthening the family, generation of awareness on related issues and facilitating productive ageing.
Another programme of the government is the Scheme of Assistance to Panchayati Raj Institutions voluntary organisations and self help groups for the construction of old age homes and multi service centres for older persons This scheme provides a one time construction grant.
Central Government Health Scheme provides pensioners of central government offices the facility to obtain medicines for chronic ailments up to three months at a stretch.
The National Mental Health Programme focuses on the needs of senior citizens who are affected with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, depression and psycho geriatric disorders.
Well, the journey towards financial security does not end here. The Central Government is in the process of developing newer plans and schemes to benefit senior citizens. In the 2007–08 Budget, the Finance Minister has proposed to provide monthly income to seniors and develop new health insurance schemes.
For the benefit of senior citizens it has been proposed that
- The National Housing Bank will introduce a 'reverse mortgage' scheme under which a senior citizen who owns a house can avail of a monthly stream of income against mortgage of the house. The senior citizen remains the owner and occupies the house throughout his or her lifetime, without repayment or servicing of the loan. Regulations are to be put in place to allow creation of mortgage guarantee companies.
- An exclusive health insurance scheme for senior citizens is to be offered by the National Insurance Company. Three other public sector insurance companies as mentioned in the Medical Insurance section, are to offer a similar product to senior citizens.
- The Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill of 2007 – This bill has been recently introduced in Parliament. It provides for the maintenance of parents, establishment of old homes, provision of medical care and protection of life and property of senior citizens.
These new developments for senior citizens are meant to get them on the path to a better, peaceful and financially sound life.