Persons who attend the age of 60 years and above are called senior citizens. The number of senior citizens all over the world is increasing with increase in longevity. The number of senior citizens in the world at present is around 70 crore and India accounts for 10 crore.
Unlike the developed world in which senior citizens are considered an asset to society, in developing countries like India, senior citizens get redundant. Most of them live at the mercy of younger members of their family as well as of the society.
In developed countries, the state provides them facilities, better living and healthcare. Those with talent in their respective fields get better opportunities to serve the society as long as they can. For example, professors and scientists are employed as long as they are able to work and feel proud for building the nation along with their juniors. On the other hand, in our country, people retire from active service at the age of 60 in government departments, however physically and mentally agile they may be.
Ironically, many scientists and educationists from India get opportunities to serve in some capacity or the other in foreign countries after retirement. As a matter of fact, I have worked as a visiting professor in some developed countries after retirement till the age of 73. Many senior Indian citizens have helped in training younger people in areas like education, research, engineering etc. in other countries on invitation.
I would like to mention here that, when I was a school student in my village, 75 to 80 years back, the senior citizens in my village used to get respect and we also considered them to be godly persons. They used to be consulted and their opinions and advice was accepted by the villagers by virtue of their vast experience.
The attitude towards senior citizens in India now-a-days is highly disappointing particularly in the rural areas. They are ignored. As a result, they feel neglected and most of them lead a very lonely life. They younger generation can cash in on the experience of the elderly to enrich their life.
It is heartening to note that the Government of India is has realised the fact that, senior citizens are neglected in the society. Setting up the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to undertake various programmes mainly to take care of senior citizens is a very heartening step. Needy senior citizens get shelter, facilities and financial assistance towards their boarding, lodging, health care etc. from the government.
However, it would be better if all the senior citizens are engaged in some developmental activities based on their expertise while getting financial assistance. This will give them a sense of purpose.
Retired teachers should be invited to teach till the time vacancies are filled up in educational institutes. The same should be done in the government’s technical departments. Sometimes, important projects get delayed due to lack of skilled personnel. This is where retired people can be asked to chip in.
(The writers is former Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India, former, Planning Board Member, Government of Odisha, Founder Chairman, Institute of Advance Technology & Environmental Studies (IATES) and Founder President, Natural Resources Development Foundation (NRDF)