Meaningful engagement of the elderly in productive activities is the basis of healthy aging, Dr Vijay Kumar Gurjar from the department of Geriatric Medicine at AIIMS said here.
Addressing a webinar titled ‘Healthy aging and geriatric medicine’ organised by Collcom, Dr Gurjar emphasised that the elderly with their experience and skillsets have a lot to offer to the society and said, “We have to find a way to make sure that we use the experience and expertise of the elderly for the benefit of our society, this will be the basis of healthy aging. A change in the mindset is needed where the elderly are seen as an invaluable resource rather than a burden. The energy of the youth combined with the experience of the elderly can contribute a lot to the society.”
Dr Gurjar felt that Old age homes should be supported by the government. “Considering the current lifestyle where there is a lot of migration for work both within the country and outside the country, elderly are often left alone. We need more old age homes no two ways about it. We need to focus on how to improve the old age homes. Most of the old age homes that we have are run by NGOs which are poorly funded and hence are not in very good condition, we need government financing of old age homes,” he added.
He also stressed the need for people to get health-conscious from the time they turn 40 so that they are able to minimise health issues during their advanced years. “Once a person reaches the age of 40 years he or she should get regular health checkups and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. A lot of times diseases are detected at an advanced stage, yearly checkups could help us to detect diseases early, so that these do not get aggravated.”
Dr Gurjar felt that in the near future the government may need to deploy Anganwari workers to cater to the health needs of the elderly. “Malnourishment is a major factor among the elderly, especially among the women elderly. In the near future the government may have to think in terms of establishing Day Care Centres for the elderly as well, they may need deploy Anganwadis to go around providing nutrition supplements and medicines to the elderly as well.”
Lamenting the lack of health literacy in India, he said, “Lack of awareness regarding health issues is the reason why there is no public outcry demanding better health facilities. Health Insurance coverage is still minuscule, when one buys a car it is compulsory to get an insurance but even now only a very small percentage of people have health insurance. We must remember that about 70 per cent of the health services are provided by private enterprises, these are very expensive, hence insurance is a must.”
He suggested some practices people can adopt for making lives easier for the elderly. “The elderly have a propensity to loose their balance and fall, hence it should be made sure that the bathroom is well lighted and there are some railings to hold on to. Family members have to ensure that they take their medication regularly and on time, this would check further aggravation of their ailments. People can make it a point to call their elderly parents or relatives first thing in the morning, this would be very enriching experience if you share your life with them and take their guidance it would benefit both the parties,” he added.
He also advised the youth to volunteer at old age homes, “It would be a very important contribution and give a lot of satisfaction to youngsters as well.”