“Sisters and brothers,
It is indeed a pleasure to address you today on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons and to honour those institutions and individuals who have rendered outstanding service to the cause of the elderly, in the form of "National Award-Vayoshreshtha Samman-2021". The recognition of their outstanding achievements through these National Awards would further motivate them to continue their good work and would also inspire others to emulate them.
As you are aware, the United Nations General Assembly had adopted a resolution to observe 1st October 1999 as the International Day of Older Persons and to promote the theme ''A society for All Ages''. Since then, the 1st day of October every year is celebrated as the International Day of Older Persons, worldwide.
In principle , I do not like to address them as “older persons” but prefer to call them as elderly . I would urge everyone to address aged people as elderly and not as older persons. This is also in line with our culture and traditions.
According to the Census of 2011, India has an elderly population of 10.38 Crore. This constitutes about 8.6 per cent of the total population. Based on the rate of growth, the population of the elderly in India is projected to reach about 14.9 per cent of the total population, by the year 2036. The phenomenon of an ageing population throws up major challenges both to society and the Government.
India has a rich tradition of respecting and caring for the elderly. Under the Joint Family System, they enjoyed a place of reverence and influence, guiding and advising the younger generations on the strength of their knowledge, wisdom and long years of experience. However, with the gradual disintegration of the Joint Family System, and the rapid proliferation of nuclear families coupled with the urbanization of the society, inter-generational bonding has weakened, resulting in erosion of the traditional values of respecting the elders in the family. These days many of our young children do not get the privilege of enjoying the tender care, love, affection and guidance of the older generations as was available to us in our joint families.
The various strata of the society need to be sensitized towards the challenges faced by the elderly as the problems relating to old age are not experienced nor fully comprehended by others. Media and NGOs should take up sensitization drives to educate people in this regard.
The growth in the number of senior citizens has also led to new challenges. One of the main challenges is to ensure timely and proper medical care to the elderly. Other issues include protecting the rights of the elderly, preventing their neglect and abuse by their children and relatives.
As you all are aware, the Government has enacted legislation for the protection and promotion of the rights of senior citizens and a policy framework has also been developed for the care of the elderly. The Government of India has launched several welfare schemes to provide comprehensive healthcare and economic independence to senior citizens.
Many senior citizens lead an active life. Their experience and skills should be used meaningfully for the nation’s growth and development. Wherever needed, training should be imparted to them for upgrading their skills.
The LASI (Longitudinal Ageing Study in India) report-2020 finds that more than 50% of senior citizens are active. Therefore, it is very important to provide gainful employment opportunities for such elders so that they can lead happy, healthy, empowered and self-reliant lives. Human Resource cells of many private enterprises seek experienced persons for certain positions. Therefore, I am very happy today that we have launched the SACRED portal which is developed by the MoSJE in collaboration with the Times Group to connect our able senior citizens with job providers in the private sector.
It is even more satisfying that voluntary organizations will help the senior citizens in applying for jobs and no user charges will be levied for this. I am confident that this interactive platform will be of great help to our elders and employers alike. I urge the private sector to utilize this opportunity and get benefitted from the vast repository of experience and expertise that our seniors possess.
Taking care of the elderly should not be the responsibility of the government alone. Rather, it has to be an all-encompassing mission involving each one of us. It is a matter of pride that India has become the world’s third-largest start-up ecosystem today. Every day, our talented techno-entrepreneurs are scripting history in various fields. I would urge these young and vibrant start-ups to come up with innovative and out-of-box solutions to the everyday problems faced by the elderly. The newly designed SAGE portal is a very timely initiative by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to encourage entrepreneurs in the area of elderly care. I compliment you on this.
Our senior citizens are a highly vulnerable group and therefore, we need to provide an easy and efficient grievance redress mechanism to protect them. In this regard, the Ministry’s decision to launch the National Helpline (Elder Line) to resolve the grievances of senior citizens is commendable. I am happy to note that Elder Line is being set up by the Ministry in collaboration with Tata Trust and others.
It is reassuring to see that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is working proactively for the welfare of senior citizens. Your consistent efforts to ensure a dignified and comfortable life for the elders are indeed laudable.
The COVID pandemic has severely affected all of us, including the senior citizens and the elderly. State Governments, NGOs and frontline workers have extended care and assistance to them. The need of the hour is for NGOs to act as a support system to the elderly and supplement the efforts of the Government and its agencies. They can play a proactive role in generating awareness on the problems of elderly people and help in strengthening intergenerational bonding.
The theme for United Nations International Day of Older Persons 2021 is “Digital Equity for All Ages” which calls for meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons. In the time of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more and more services are being offered online. Hence, we need to make efforts to increase digital literacy among our senior citizens. I urge the younger generation to take a lead in this regard and educate the elders in their family and neighbourhood on the use of digital devices. This will go a long way in empowering them.
Before concluding, let me convey my congratulations to all the institutions and individuals who were honoured today with "National Award-Vayoshreshtha Samman 2021'' for their outstanding achievements in their respective fields. Let these prestigious awards and the work done by the recipients of the awards inspire others to follow the path of service.
I wish the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry and all officials engaged in the welfare of elderly all success in their future endeavours.