A formal approach to homes for the elderly is an important policy and planning issue for India

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A formal approach to homes for the elderly is an important policy and planning issue for India

  • As India is increasingly urbanizing and families are breaking up into smaller units, homes for the elderly have increased.
  • The care of elderly people is managed by a set of professionals or voluntary organizations interested in geriatric services.


  • The number of homes for elderly care is rising rapidly in urban and semi-urban India. These homes are either paid for, or offer free or subsidized service.
  • Generally these homes are run by NGOs, religious or voluntary organizations with support from the government, or by local philanthropists.
  • They provide accommodation, timely care, and a sense of security for their residents.
  • However, the quality of service varies as these homes lack regulatory oversight.
  • Many homes lack clearly established standard operating procedures, and their referral paths to health care are informal.
  • There is an urgent need to understand the quality of life at such institutions, including the impact of these homes on the mental health of their residents.

A rapidly growing section

  • A formal approach to homes for the elderly is an important policy and planning issue for India.
  • The UN World Population Ageing Report notes that India’s ageing population (those aged 60 and above) is projected to increase to nearly 20% by 2050 from about 8% now.
  • By 2050, the percentage of elderly people will increase by 326%, with those aged 80 years and above set to increase by 700%, making them the fastest-growing age group in India. With this future in mind, it is essential that our policy framework and social responses are geared to meet this reality.
  • A recent set of research papers highlight that good intentions and a sense of charity are often inadequate when it comes to addressing the basic health needs of their elderly residents.
  • The study also found some ‘unseen’ effects of vision impairment: many were prone to depression.
  • Those with both vision and hearing impairment had a rate of depression that was five times higher than those without.
  • Our homes, buildings and social environment are not built keeping the elderly (or people with disabilities) in mind.
  • As people age, and their motor skills weaken, they are at a greater risk of falling down and hurting themselves.
  • Instead of planning for accessible and elderly-friendly structures that allow them to operate safely, we reduce their mobility.
  • This reduces their sociability, their sense of independence and well-being leading up to mental health issues and depression.

Measures to be taken

  • The state of homes for the elderly offers us some low-hanging fruit we can address easily.
  • Build formal pathways for basic health screening between such homes and public health facilities.
  • This can include screenings for blood sugar, blood pressure, periodic vision and hearing screening, and a simple questionnaire to assess mental health.
  • Such interventions are inexpensive and could go a long way in identifying health issues and offering support.
  • Formal channel to address any health issues that such screenings identify.
  • Many hospitals (public, NGO-run, and private care) can help.

Public policy support

  • There is a need for robust public policy to support homes for the elderly.
  • Health institutions also need to offer a comprehensive set of packages that are tailored for the elderly
  • Homes for the elderly must be guided, by policy, to make their facilities, buildings and social environment elderly- and disabled-friendly.
  • Design, architecture and civic facilities must be thought from the ground up and these innovations must be available for all residents, not just those living in expensive ones.
  • There are lessons here for society as a whole, but, as they say, let’s take one step at a time.