Friday, February 5, 2010

Aid policy for elderly

New Delhi, Jan. 27: The Centre is enriching a 10-year-old policy for the elderly that has so far remained on paper, offering financial support, healthcare, shelter, protection from abuse and exploitation as well as a battle against dementia.

The National Policy for Older Persons (NPOP) of 1999 is being upgraded with special focus on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia as part of a National Dementia Strategy. (See chart)

The existing policy has virtually seen no implementation on the ground with most states failing to show interest, a Union social justice and empowerment ministry official admitted.

He said a “determined” Centre would this time tighten its monitoring and withhold NPOP funds to the states if they did not carry the policy out. “We want the NPOP implemented in letter and spirit,’’ the official said.

The highlight of the new NPOP would be the measures against all forms of dementia.

“India is said to have millions of people with dementia and it is imperative that we prepare to deal with the socio-economic repercussions of this,’’ the official said.

A report by the Alzheimer’s Disease International says there are 36 million people with dementia in the world, of whom three million live in India. The number may rise to 10 million by 2030, the report says.

“We want to create awareness about the disease because it can be prevented if we take the right precautions,’’ the official said.

Scientists say people who engage in intellectually stimulating activities, such as social interaction and the playing of a musical instrument, significantly lower their risk of developing dementia or, at least, delay its onset.

The revised policy will ask the states to ensure quick disposal of cases relating to property transfer and property tax involving the aged. It will also require the states to provide special identity cards to everyone above 65 to make it easier for them to claim benefits such as fare concessions and priority in the allocation of gas and phone connections.

Health professionals and activists working with the elderly and dementia patients said they were happy with the government’s plans.

“The social and economic consequences of dementia are extraordinary,” said Dr Jacob Roy, who heads the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India.

“This is not only because of the increase in the number of dementia patients, but also because the condition is one of the most disabling ones, leading to personality changes and behavioural problems. It is good news that the government is giving special attention to Alzheimer’s.”


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