April 3, 2011

INDIA: Elderly under health ministry's 'scientific' scanner'

NEW DELHI / The Times of India / Senior Citizens / April 3, 2011

The nation's apex research body, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is seeking answers to these critical questions.

The country will soon have to cater to a huge population of the aged. Consequently, the Union health minister is now trying to better understand "this section of society more scientifically."

Photograph courtesy 
Sonal Kulshreshtha, merinews.com

"There is a need for focused research on the impact of social, economic and family transitions on the lives of the aged and to understand the biology and genetics of ageing. The idea is to explore new areas of research through amalgamation of biomedical and social approaches. These research initiatives would help to inform policy decisions and address challenges and opportunities of an ageing world," says ICMR.

It adds, "To gather scientific evidence on the biology of ageing and the environmental, health, and economic implications of ageing, ICMR announces the call for concept proposals in the following broad areas - longevity, brain ageing and neuro-degeneration, effect of age-related diseases and longevity in humans, genetic studies, mental health and neurological disorders, epidemiology and burden of disease in the elderly, ageing and nutritional needs, assessment of nutritional status, under nutrition and obesity in the aged, nutrition and degenerative diseases."

According to officials, the overall goals are to build a research base for environmental, epidemiological, social and biological factors that influence healthy ageing. Each project has a maximum annual budget of Rs 5 million. A project can run maximum for three years.

According to the Union health ministry, the greying population will increase to 12 per cent of the total population by 2025 - 10 per cent of which would be bedridden, requiring maximum care.

A majority (80 per cent) of them are in rural areas, making service delivery a challenge.

Add to that, 51 per cent of the elderly population will be women by 2016 along with a spurt in the number of older-old (persons above 80 years). To make matters worse, 30 per cent of the elderly will be below poverty line.

It is estimated that the 60-plus population will increase to 100 million in 2013, and to 198 million by 2030.

Copyright © 2011 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.