Distinguished Alumnus of BITS Pilani Mathew Cherian CEO HelpAge India authors Book on Ageing & Poverty in India
Distinguished Alumnus of BITS Pilani Mathew Cherian CEO HelpAge India authors Book on Ageing & Poverty in India
Hard hitting statistics include that 65% of India’s elders lost their livelihood & income during the COVID 19 lockdown. A well-known fact, is that 90% of India’s elders belong to the unorganized sector, they have to continue to work in their later years in order to survive. This became even more pronounced in the survey, as 65% of India’s elders lost their livelihood during the COVID 19 lockdown. 67% were in the age group of 60-69 years, a stark 28% in the old-old category (70 – 79 years) and 5% in the oldest-old age group (80 plus). Rural Elderly were harder hit with, 61% of those affected being from rural areas, while 39% from urban areas.
A disturbing 62% of elder respondents were suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, hypertension etc.42% elders reported worsening of health condition during the lockdown. Of these, 64% elders were from the rural areas as compared to 36% from urban areas. Due to the lockdown, 78% elders faced challenges accessing essential goods and services nationally. Amongst the total rural respondents, 84% elders faced difficulty in accessing essential good & services and 71% amongst the total urban elderly.
The top 3 essential goods & services elders had difficulty in accessing during the lockdown, were in clusters of the following common responses: Access to Food, Groceries & Medicines, followed by Access to Domestic Help / Household Maid and the third being Access to Banking / ATM services. Interesting to note, was that 62% of those who felt confined were the Young Old between 60-69 years, where the feeling of frustration & confinement might have been higher, as this section of the aged are more able bodied and active, as compared to the Old Old, those between 70-79 years (31%) and Oldest Old, those above 80 years (7%).
On an awareness level, it was interesting to note that 91% of elders were aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID 19. As to the source of how this awareness was generated, 52% elders attributed it to Family & Relatives. A point that must be noted here, is that most elders are not digitally literate, so it would be safe to assume that access to digital & online media would have been limited. The top 3 major Fears elders had during the lockdown, were clustered in common responses - 38 % had the Fear of getting infected by Covid 19, Fear of its spread through Socializing & Loss of Income, 34% feared Economic loss, fear of Starvation & No Work, and 12% had fear of Travelling, fear of Community Spread and their Low Immunity levels.
Elders had were very clear on their needs and had some clear Suggestions for the Government - more than 60% elder respondents mentioned Pension as their top need, while 50% wanted Medicines & Healthcare needs to be addressed. The HelpAge India team on the ground and Elder Helpline (1800-180-1253) team has been reaching out to disadvantaged & vulnerable elders, the homeless & destitute, those living in urban slums & villages. In both rural & urban India, HelpAge has been providing them with the much needed rations, meals for survival, medicines, masks, hand wash, sanitizers and counselling anxiety ridden elders through the helpline along with provided them much needed essentials items they were unable to access. The need on ground is immense and the elderly the hardest hit. HelpAge has reached out to over 6 lakh elders across the country and provided them relief and support across 125 districts in 25 states.
Chief Executive Mathew Cherian who manages India 's largest non profit in the field of elderly and is on the National council of senior citizens holds a BE (Hons) from institution of eminence in India today Birla Institute of Technology and Science - BITS Pilani and post graduate in rural management from IRMA, Anand. He had authored in 2014 a book titled A Million Missions: The non – profit sector in India says he decided to write the book titled Ageing and Poverty in India and complete the same during the lockdown period as he was disappointed that the Government did very little for elderly and even at Covid times only kept repeating the slogan “stay indoors”.
The book highlights the elder situation in India, provides first hand insights and brings onboard the vast on-ground experience and expertise of the author. “This book is not an armchair exposition, but born out of two decades of experience and understanding the plight of economically weaker older people in rural areas and urban areas. At the same time, fear and insecurity among them is becoming more acute in urban areas. The Book is being written to share experiences with the hope to make life better in old age, averting an old age crisis and to provide better solutions for the future especially for those elderly who are economically deprived and who have become marginalized, unheard and unseen after having worked all their lives.”- said Mathew Cherian.
Meanwhile, the Findings from the HelpAge Nationwide Survey released today, focusing on elders during the COVID 19 lockdown, hits home hard, as elder vulnerabilities are brought to fore. Senior Citizen himself Mathew Cherian is celebrating his birthday today 19 Jun 2020 and his friends and well wishers raised INR 50,000 to mark the occasion with the entire collection going for welfare of the aged.
For more details see BITSAA https://www.bitsaa.org/
Prof BR Natarajan
BITS Pilani Alumnus
Pilani Rajasthan India 333031
About BITSAA: BITS Alumni Association (BITSAA) has emerged as one of the strongest alumni networks of any university. BITSAA International engages in charitable and educational activities by raising funds for setting up endowments, creating scholarships, rewarding teaching and research and generally promoting the development of resources at Birla Institute of Technology and Science at Pilani, Dubai, Goa & Hyderabad campuses. BITSAA International also aims to strengthen the ties, friendship and communication amongst former students, alumni faculty and friends of the Institute. BITSAA International provides a number of channels for people to stay connected with each other and with Birla Institute of Technology & Science. Notable other alumni initiatives for BITS Pilani include Prof SSR Memorial Teaching Excellence Award, multi crore Pilani AtmaNirbhar Resource Centre PARC by 75-80 batch alumni, Prashant Anuradha Palakurthi Research Endowment and many more. For more on BITSAA see https://www.bitsaa.org/
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