Young India going Old: The population of India is more than 1 billion- a very well-known fact. India is the second most populous country in the world, again a well-established statistic. Modern India is being acknowledged as ‘Young India’ because …

Young India going Old:

The population of India is more than 1 billion- a very well-known fact. India is the second most populous country in the world, again a well-established statistic. Modern India is being acknowledged as ‘Young India’ because of the growing population rate of the country.

And despite all this, there is a startlingly new revelation that has come to the forefront which needs the urgent attention and focus of the governmental, the political and societal machinery of the country.

The emerging demographics of the population in India show that the age group of individuals over the age of 60 years today accounts for more than 8% of the total population. That means, today there are more than 80 million elderly over the age of 60 years in India!

This figure of ‘Population Ageing’ as it is referred to by demographers is growing so rapidly that, by 2050, there will be more than 315 million seniors over the age of 60 years in India.

In 2001, ‘the index of ageing’, which is the shift in the balance between the child and older populations and  is expressed as ‘the number of persons above 60 years for every 100 children below the age of 15 years’, was 23.4 elderly persons for every 100 children, but this number is projected to increase to 53 elderly persons for every 100 children by 2026, indicating clearly the rapid increase in the population of the elderly in the near future.

So, though we have been looking at India as a country which will have a high number of youngsters in its total population, a close and more scientific look reveals that on a parallel level, India is also going to have a large population of elders over the age of 60 years. And in this population, 20 % of the senior citizens will be over the age of 80 years!

This is the miracle of longevity. Science and technological innovations in medicine have brought in an increase in the longevity of mankind. Increased longevity has also brought in its wake, the issues and concerns of the elderly- a scenario that requires the urgent attention of all of us. Longevity is not just about living long; it is also about the quality of that long life!

Issues and Concerns of the Elderly:

There is a great difference in the situation of the elderly a couple of decades ago and that of today. Essentially, the family served as a security net and always took care of its elders, be they men or women, widowed or unmarried, with ailments and disabilities or merely frail with age.

But today, in the modern world where the family structure has changed its face from being a joint family system to a nuclear set-up, in a world where, the children have moved out of their parental homes out of compulsion or choice, dictated by the need for better opportunities or for independent living respectively, the gamut of problems or the concerns of the elderly have also undergone a sea-change.

Compounded with this is the fact that the western influence of materialism, liberation, and ultra-modernism  has impacted the minds of the young generations of India. Some of the trends of this generation include a lack of tolerance for the weak and the frail, impatience, arrogance and most importantly, a money-oriented luxurious lifestyle.

In this atmosphere of living for one’s own pleasures, the traditional values of the family system get eroded. Caring for the family, looking after the old and the infirm in the family have become bygones, so to put it very euphemistically. These are outdated values, is the belief of our modern day youngsters!

With such a value system in place, the elders, be they parents or grandparents, are increasingly being looked upon as unwanted burdens of society.  Not only do the young adults want to live independent of their parents, but they do not want to take up any responsibility towards them.

In such a social atmosphere in the urban areas of India, wherein the younger generations live by the norms of liberated independence and materialistic luxuries, one of the most vulnerable segments of the Indian population happen to be the elderly! Reduced physical and mental fitness, the growing dependency on others, loss of self-confidence, are some of the features of the ageing process which bring on a sense of helplessness and isolation amongst the elderly. To add to this, the attitude of neglect, an intolerant and impatient approach on the part of the younger generations, only serves to heighten the loneliness and emptiness felt by the senior citizens.

India was known for its values of respect for, care of and attention towards the elderly. Its value system was acknowledged and respected the world over. But over the last few years the system has crumbled. The values lost. What is left behind is Tradition in shambles! A mockery of the rich Indian heritage!

Need to restore the imbalance:

A society is what its children are! For after all the children of today are the adult citizens of tomorrow. In fact, today, one of our valuable resources in the country are our children. By grooming the young minds which are so malleable, so impressionable, in the right direction, we would be helping nurture a healthy and happy society.

Similarly we also need to recognize another valuable human resource of our society- our elders. Cherish your elders- they are a treasure-house of knowledge, wisdom and experience. An old African proverb says-“ The death of an elderly man is like the burning of a library.” The wisdom and knowledge of our elders are like the roots of a society. Cut away these roots and the tree falls, so also, when we deride or neglect an elder we are sawing off the very branch that we are sitting upon!

If we are able to impress upon our children the importance of being respectful towards our elderly, if we are able to set by example the need for being caring towards our seniors, we would be grooming a generation of adults who would be able to cherish and value these ancient mores.

Children learn fast when they are taught young. And it is necessary that we bring back the value system of yore which was healthy for the mind and soul of society. So what better than to teach the young children, the importance of the elderly in our lives; to impress upon them that, ‘As you sow, so shall you Reap!’  Everyone grows old. So give respect and get respect. If the seniors of today are happy and can lead dignified lives, we can be assured that the children of today will also be the happy and healthy elders of tomorrow.

So to restore our Indian heritage, to bring back the spirit of wellbeing generated by our ancient Indian traditions, we have to cultivate our young Indian minds. We have to inculcate in them the fact that our elders are indeed the backbone of our society. The well-being of our elders is also the indicator of the health of our society.

 “Valueducation of our Children”:

ILC-I believes in Productive, Participatory, Healthy, Qualitative Ageing.  ILC-I’s initiative on “Valueducation of our Children” seeks the participation of senior citizens as voluntary teachers of ‘Valueducation”. The participation of seniors as volunteers under this project to imbibe amongst our youngsters and the young children, the ancient values of the Indian traditions, serves to highlight the fact that seniors are still productive, still capable of giving something useful and valuable to society and that age has in no way diminished their quality or their capacity of being positive contributors to the development of society.

This also ensures that seniors remain active and independent and in the process healthy and beneficially occupied not in monetary terms, but in terms of qualitative work satisfaction.

At the same time the seniors would also be carrying out a responsibility that has traditionally been theirs from times of yore and which they have carried out appreciably- to inculcate amongst the youngsters, the old and cherished values that nurture a good society.

Methodology of the project:

Those seniors who are interested in interacting with school children or those who have a special knack of building a rapport with these children are registered by ILC-I for this project. They may be retired school teachers, principals, professors, engineers, grandmothers or elderly housewives or from any other profession- the common objective would be to instill valueducation in the youngsters.

Besides giving valueducation to the children, the project would also have competitions in painting, essay, poetry which would reflect the thoughts of the children regarding their elders. The elderly volunteers would judge the competitions, and prizes based on creative, innovative and positive depictions of ageing related issues, would be given to the children.

Through this project ILC-I seeks to “Valueducate  our children of today to be the dignified elders of tomorrow.”

Anjali Raje
Executive Director