New America Media, News Feature, Sandip Roy* //Photographs: Bishan Samaddar, Posted: Jan 04, 2010
Editor's Note: India's aging population has reached 80 million, but the country lacks the infrastructure to cater to this new demographic. This is the first in a series of reports by NAM editor Sandip Roy, whose reporting was supported by a fellowship from the South Asian Journalists Association.
The problem for India is not that there are 80 million older people. The real issue is a lack of infrastructure and financial security for a huge number of elders. There are 22 million widows in India, a number larger than the population of New York. “The problem is not about widowhood,” says Ruprekha Chowdhury who is doing her dissertation on old age homes in Bengal. “The problem is they have no savings.”
Health insurance is not common. Migration, whether to the west or to big cities, and smaller families mean there are fewer children around. Cities aren’t age-friendly. There might be wheelchair ramps but no rails to hold on to. “Aging came to India before development,” says Indira Jai Prakash, a gerontologist in Bangalore. “In Western countries, they developed first and then longevity came.”
Sandip Roy is an editor with New America Media and host of its radio show UpFront on KALW 91.7 FM. He is a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and writes regularly for ethnic and mainstream media publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle, California Magazine, India Currents, India Abroad, and others. He traveled to India on a World Affairs Journalism Fellowship administered by the International Center for Journalists. The fellowship is sponsored by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.