She came to receive an honour, but she left after sowing seeds of doubt about one of India’s biggest demographic advantages, viz., its "young" population.
India, she said, is fast becoming an "old" country – with the fastest-growing segment of the population being those in the 80-plus bracket ("we are 91 million people already").
Here are some more nuggets that Dr. Sheilu "Dignity" Srinivasan, an acknowledged champion of the aged and the elderly, left behind at the last meeting of the Club:
? For the first time in human history, the number of the old will overtake the number of the young by the year 2050; (in developed countries, the reversal started taking place from 1998 onwards);
? There are 630 million people in the world today who are 60-plus
– this number will grow to 2 billion by 2050; (54% of these persons live in Asia and 11% of the 54% in India);
??According to the latest available statistics, once an Indian reaches the age of 55 years, his/ her life expectancy becomes 77;
? In many parts of the world, those aged 50 and above are said to belong to the ageing group; for ten years after that, these persons are helped to make preparations for facing old age;
? Bismarck, the German Chancellor, introduced the concept of retirement at the age of 58; over a century and a half later, 58 is still treated as the "benchmark";
? In India, the Ministry of Justice and Social Empowerment says
its benchmark is 60; but the Finance Ministry insists on 65; ("but ask a politician and he will say, why should I retire at all?");
The American Association of Retired Persons, which has 40 million members, sends a birthday card to people on their 50th birthday, saying "Welcome to the world of senior citizens".
These were some of the comments made by Dr. Sheilu Srinivasan while speaking at the last meeting after receiving the Rotary Club of Bombay’s "PublicAward for Social Service".
Introduced by Rotary and Public Awards Committee Chairman Nelum Gidwani as a feisty fighter for the rights of the elderly, she received the award from President Nandan Damani amidst prolonged applause.
Dr. Srinivasan recalled that when the Prime Minister was in Bombay to canvas votes for the Parliamentary elections, she had heard (Dr.) Indu Shahani ask, "Sir, we are a very young country; what plans do your candidates have for them?"
She was surprised to hear this because India was fast becoming an old country. The fastest-growing segment of the population was the 80-plus group ("and we are 91 million people already").
Yet not a single candidate, with the sole exception of Mr. Milind Deora (the present MP), had talked about senior citizens in the course of his campaign.
Dr. Srinivasan said that ageing was easily the "underdog among all causes" in India. There was such meagre awareness about it that whenever she
said that she was working for the elderly, the first question she was asked was, "Where is the home?"
This showed that to most people "working for the elderly" meant little other than building a home for the aged.
"When we were able to find a home and rescue him, a qualitative change occurred in his life. Can a balance sheet compute the value of that? And make my NGO, both physically and financially, sound? That’s the acumen we don’t have, we don’t know how to do that. That is why I am appealing to you for help."
TWO: Sponsor a centre in an existing home for the aged:
By sponsoring, say, a "chai-masti" centre in an existing home for the aged, it would be possible to champion the recreational needs of the elderly. It would cost about Rs. 15,000 per month and allow 100 to 200 people to have a good time.
THREE: Offer ration supplies to the poor among the aged:
Rather than feed 20 Brahmins on someone’s death anniversary, it would be better to offer ration supplies to the poor among the aged in return for little jobs they might do for the community. This would champion the building of self-esteem among them.
FOUR: Offer a second career to the elderly:
Savings made years ago were proving to be inadequate because of low interest rates; hence many elderly persons had no choice but to go back to work. Offering gainful employment to such experienced persons would champion their self-esteem.
"Can we initiate a joint project of second careers for such persons? We will do the counselling. Can we together locate jobs, say, as manager of a co-operative housing society, or as an accountant in your lawyer’s office? Or any other supervisory/managerial job that requires trust? Part-time or full-time? They will never leave you. They are not like the young who switch jobs frequently."
FIVE: Sponsor picnics for the aged:
One of the best way