D:IJSW07Oct07Oct07.vp
D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
After Age 60 in India
After Age 60 in India
A Glimpse through Census and NSSO
D.P. SINGH AND PRINCY YESUDIAN
A clear understanding of the position and condition of elderly will help the planning,
policy and programme makers to provide for the needs of the elders, so that they
can lead a healthy and dignified life. This paper is an attempt in this direction. The
datasets used are Indian decennial Census, and NSSO dataset (60th Round,
2004) which have collected information on the condition and problems of the aged
in India.
Dr. D.P. Singh is Professor and Chairperson, Centre for Research Methodology, Tata
Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and Ms. Princy Yesudian is Senior Research
Officer, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai.

INTRODUCTION
It is estimated that at the global level the number of elderly (age 60+)
would double from 322 million in 2000 to 705 million in 2025 (UNFPA,
2002). This brisk increase in the elderly population has created
enormous economic and social challenges and concerns for many
nations. Of recent, ageing concerns are viewed in the developmental
and humanitarian contexts. Healthy elders are a resource to their
families, communities, countries and economies (WHO, 2002). An
ageing society has its economic, social, political, cultural, spiritual and
other impacts on all spheres of societal structure and function
(Sidorenko, 1999).
The United Nations had initiated the ‘society for all ages’ and
described it as the one that sees older persons as both agents and
beneficiaries of development. This concept implies mainstreaming the
elderly population, reducing poverty and providing opportunities for
consultation and participation for all (UNFPA, 2002). Numerous
countries across the world have adopted it as the national theme for the
observance of the International Year of Older Persons; India is one
amongst them (Sidorenko, 1999). Further, the need to improve the
quality of life of the elderly population has been stressed by WHO
(Voigtlander, 1999; WHO, 2002).
Elderly in general are expected to face almost the same kind of
vulnerability during the later phase of their life irrespective of their
sex. But, with respect to the settings they live in their challenges are
often different. Where rigid gender role expectations exist and social

546 D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
custom and family law discriminates against women, the elderly
women have had to face different challenges especially due to their
illiteracy, economic dependency and restrictions on their mobility
(Kinsella and Gist, 1998). Gender discrimination in the earlier phase
of life restricts empowerment resources for a girl child. Restricting
her mobility often creates a magnitude of illiterate unskilled women
who depend fully on their spouses economically (Kinsella and Gist,
1998). Female survival advantage over men in the later part of life,
creates more health and socioeconomic problems for elderly women
than men, especially among the age group 80+ in most of the nations.
Women with their predominant role as care giver consequently
suffer a burden of physical and psychological ill-health, lost
employment and social opportunities, and pension rights (Harwood,
2003).
Living arrangements have direct as well as indirect impact on one’s
physical and emotional health (Gupta and Sankar, 2003). In the later
phase of life, marital union is often viewed on the care provision aspect.
Widowhood often creates a lot of socioeconomic and psychological
problems in personal and familial support mechanism, living
arrangement, financial dependency and personal relationships.
Majority of older women cope with such vulnerability without a
negative impact on their health (Bonita, 1996). Cultural practices such
as marrying a much younger bride often leave lesser number of
widowers and larger number of widows in that society (Rajan, 2006).
Globally the number of widows is increasing (Kinsella and Gist, 1998).
Women’s increasing longevity and lack of physical resources leads to
psychological distress and mental illness. It is highlighted that in many
regions ageing has to be seen with a focus on women and their needs so
that they can lead an active healthy life (WHO, 2002; UNFPA, 2002).
Old age is not a disease but is often treated as a disease. Old age is
associated with disease as it makes the body weak, frail and susceptible
to disease. Diseases often disrupt one’s role and discourage the aged
from starting any activity. Disability is strongly associated with age.
Increasing age, educational level, affiliation to social group (lower
social strata), rural/urban residence and economic status of the
household may affect the ability to control illness and the ability to seek
treatment and care (Gupta and Sankar, 2003).
Economic vulnerability is compounded by physical and mental
vulnerability, making the elderly one of the most important targets for
welfare programmes (Gupta and Sankar, 2003). A better
understanding of the ageing profile in a setting could enable
governmental welfare programmes and health care providers to focus
on them. This study is an effort to highlight the profile of elderly in
different socioeconomic settings and in different states so that welfare
provisions could be directed towards them, which in turn could further
enhance the elderly to lead a healthy and dignified life.

After Age 60 in India 547
Indian Scenario
India has been in the process of ageing and is moving towards it at a
faster pace. The mortality rate started declining since 1920 and the
birth rate started decreasing since 1970. The proportion of elderly
persons has risen from 5.63 per cent in 1961 to 6.58 in 1991, 7.7 in 2001
(Census, 2001) and is expected to be 9.87 in 2021 (Rajan, Mishra and
Sarma, 1999). Further, increasing longevity and the return migration
of elderly too contributes to the increasing proportion of elderly
(Zachariah, Mathew and Rajan, I., 1999). Even though the proportion
of elderly is not very noticeable, they are high in magnitude because of
their large population base.
In absolute numbers, India had 24.7 million elderly persons in 1961,
which has more than doubled to 56.7 million in 1991 and to 76.6 million in
2001; it is expected to reach 113.5 million by 2016 according to Indian
Government’s estimate (Government of India, 2005) and 134 million by
2021 (Rajan, Mishra and Sarma, l999). Currently in India the advancing
medical technology and healthcare provision has trickled down to almost
everyone’s reach. It is therefore expected that the elderly will live longer
than what was expected earlier. The life expectancy at age 60 has almost
doubled from 1901 to 2001; 9.5 years to 16 years for men and 10.2 to 18.1
years for women respectively (Government of India, 2005).
Bhagat and Unisa (2006) have used census 2001 data set and stated
that the adult population contributes more to economic dependency
than do old people. Substantially more elderly males were ill compared
to elderly women, especially in terms of the chronic diseases (Chanana
and Talwar, 1987).
Earlier in Indian society, elders were considered an asset to impart
wisdom, knowledge, advice, and care to the family; they received high
social recognition and were involved in making most of the family
decisions. But this scenario has been changing in recent times mainly due
to the declining fertility and mortality rates, and increasing migration,
urbanisation, modernisation, and globalisation. Additionally, some of the
elders with their own ancient mindset and attitude, and unwillingness to
adapt to the modern situations have created hurdles for their own quality
of life. The swiftly increasing elderly population has a profound impact on
the economy and society (Gulati and Rajan, 1991; Visaria, 2001).
Provision of care for the elderly is becoming an important concern for the
Government in the near future. Many elders are in a vulnerable condition
and have to look for some governmental or societal care which is very
limited and not available in many areas.
Study Objectives, Data Sources and Methodology
Keeping the above in mind, the purpose of the paper is to analyse the
situation of the elderly (60+) in India. The specific objectives are as follows:
1. Ana lyse the age ing pat tern and trend in India.

548 D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
2. Study the spa tial dis par ity among these el ders in var i ous re -
gions of India.
3. Ana lyse the de mo graphic and socio-economic char ac ter is tics of
the el derly.
4. Ex plore the health pro file of the el derly in India.
It is not apt to use census and survey to study a trend. But to obtain
the first objective, data sets of the decennial Census of India and
National Sample Survey Organisations (NSSO) were used. The
National Sample Survey (NSS), 60th Round conducted during 2004 is
used to explore the remaining objectives. This recent NSSO survey is
focused on ‘Morbidity and Health Care’ with a separate special section
focused on the problems of the aged. This data set provides ample
information to study the problem of the elderly. This survey covered all
the regions of India, with the exception of some interior areas of
Nagaland, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Leh (Ladakh) and Kargil
districts of Jammu and Kashmir. This survey considered those who
were age 60 and above as the elderly and collected information on
demographic characteristics, dependency ratio, conditions of the aged
in respect of their economic dependency, number of dependents, living
arrangements, persons supporting the aged, and physical immobility.
This information has provided an excellent opportunity to explore the
stated objectives.
Findings
1. Ageing Trend in India
Studying the proportion of elderly in any population highlights the
exact ageing situation of a country. The proportion of elderly is steadily
increasing according to the decennial censuses and it is shown in Table 1.
The proportion of elderly who were 5.6 per cent of the total population
in 1961 has increased to 7.7 per cent in 2001. In comparison to the
proportion of elderly in the urban areas, the proportion of elderly in the
TABLE 1: Growth of Elderly Population (60+) in India (Census 1951–2001)
Proportion of Elderly to Total
Census Years
Population (in per cent)
Rural
Urban
Combined
1961
5.8
4.7
5.6
1971
6.2
5.0
6.0
1981
6.5
5.1
6.2
1991
7.0
5.4
6.6
2001
8.3
6.5
7.7
NSS 2004
7.3
6.3
6.9
Source: Indian Census

After Age 60 in India 549
rural areas to the total population in India has been higher all through
these decades. According to 2001 census, the share of elderly in rural
areas is 8.3 per cent and in urban areas 6.5 per cent. Though in
proportion it is not very obvious, the increasing magnitude of these
elders is very alarming.
Table 2 shows the swiftly increasing magnitude of elders in India over
the decades since 1951. The magnitude of elders is leaping steadily; more
than double from 25 million in 1961 to 57 million in 1991. The recent
2001 census figure shows 76.6 million elders in India. According to the
1951 census the gender gap was favourable to women; 9.9 million elderly
women to 9.7 million elderly men. Between 1971 and 1991, census
figures revealed a wider gender gap, favouring elderly men; 16.9 million
elderly men to 15.8 million elderly women in 1971 and 29.4 million
elderly men to 27.3 million elderly women in 1991. The latest 2001
Census points towards what could be emerging as a reversible turn in
the earlier observed trend. The share of elderly women is a little higher
than their male counterparts; 38.9 million women to 37.8 million men
among the elderly. According to NSSO 2004 there are 66.4 million elders
and they are almost equally distributed between the genders.
TABLE 2: Growth of Elderly Population (60+) in India (Census 1951 – 2001)
Magnitude of Elderly Population
(in million)
Census Years
Male
Female
Both
(M+F)
1951
9.7
9.9
19.6
1961
12.4
12.4
24.7
1971
16.9
15.8
32.7
1981
22.0
21.1
43.2
1991
29.4
27.3
56.7
2001
37.8
38.9
76.6
NSS 2004
33.2
33.2
66.4
Source: Indian Census
Sex Ratio: The census and NSS data show different trends.
According to 1981 the sex ratio (number of females per 1000 males) was
960, and it dropped to 930 during 1991 and increased to 1029 during
2001. Whereas, NSS estimates show an increasing trend between 1988
and 1996, that is, 983 in 1988 to 1023 in 1996. In 2004 the sex ratio
dropped again to 999. Figure 1 shows the sex ratio according to
decennial Censuses and NSSO surveys among the elderly in India over
the period 1981 to 2004. According to both the Census and NSS
estimates, the sex ratio has been increasing except during Census 1991
and 2004. The sex ratio in urban areas is much higher than in rural
areas.

550 D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
FIGURE 1: The Changing Pattern of Sex-ratio among Elderly
The changing pattern of sex-ratio among elderly
1100
1050
1000
950
900
850
Census 1981
NSS 1987-88
Census 1991
NSS 1993-94
NSS 1995 - 96
Census 2001
NSS 2004
Sorce of information
Rural
Urban
All India
2. Spatial Distribution of Elderly in India
According to this NSSO 60th Round, it is estimated that there are 66.4
million elderly persons in India. Table 3 shows the percentage
distribution of elderly by their place of residence, gender and age
group. Majority of the elderly (75.7%) reside in the rural areas. The
gender gap is observed differently in rural and urban types of
residence. The proportion of elderly men is high in rural India
whereas the proportion of elderly women is high in urban areas. The
proportion of elders in different age groups is decreasing as the age
increases. For example, there are sixty-seven per cent of the elders in
the age group 60–70. Thereafter steep differences are observed.
Elders in the age group 70–74 are 18.6 per cent and age group 75–80 is
7.5 per cent. Longevity in the urban areas is much higher than rural
areas. The proportion of elderly in the age group 75+ is higher in urban
areas than rural areas; 18.7 per cent and 15.3 per cent respectively.
TABLE 3: Percentage Distribution of the Elderly by their Sex and Type of
Residence
Rural
Urban
All
Age Group
India
Male
Female
Both
Male
Female
Both
(M+F)
(M+F)
60–64
36.6
36.8
36.7
34.8
34.8
34.8
36.2
65–69
28.3
30.0
29.2
27.8
29.2
28.5
29.0
70–74
18.8
18.8
18.8
18.6
17.6
18.1
18.6
75–79
7.4
6.8
7.1
9.3
8.4
8.9
7.5
80+
8.8
7.6
8.2
9.5
10.1
9.8
8.6
All 60+
50.4
49.6
75.7
48.9
51.1
24.3
100
Source: NSS, 2004

After Age 60 in India 551
There are lesser women than men among the elderly in India according
to decennial censuses and surveys. This survey highlights that ageing
among women is increasing and is seen in the increasing proportion of
women than men in the 70–79 years age group. The proportion of
women in this age group is higher, that is, by 1.9 per cent points in
urban areas and 1.4 per cent points in rural areas. Whereas in the 80+
age group, men are higher than women; 1.8 per cent points more men in
rural areas and 1.3 per cent points more men in urban areas.
Not only have these differences been observed in rural and urban
type of settings but also a wide spatial disparity has been observed in
the estimated figures between states. As every state is of a different
size and population, the proportion of the elderly population would be a
good measure to compare the ageing situation. The proportion of elders
in every state is explained in Table 4.
The proportion of elders to its total population is 11.2 per cent in
Kerala and it is the highest in the country. The states where proportion
is higher than 8 per cent are Goa, Pondicherry, Himachal Pradesh,
Tamil Nadu and Orissa. The states (and union territories) where
ageing is slow are Chandigarh, Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya, Daman
and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Andaman and Nicobar, and Delhi.
In the urban areas of all south, central, west and north states (except
Jammu and Kashmir), the proportion of women elders to the total
women population is higher. Ageing is very high among women in rural
Kerala (12.3 per cent) and very low among women in Daman and Diu
and Nagaland (1.9 per cent in rural areas and 0.7 per cent in urban
areas). Among the men in rural Daman and Diu, less than one per cent
(0.6%) is estimated to be elderly men.
TABLE 4: Proportion of the Elderly to the Total Population in Different
Regions of India
Rural
Urban
All
Esti-
State
India mated
Male Female Both
Male Female Both
Sex
(M+F)
(M+F)
Ratio
North
Delhi
3.7
3.5
3.6
4.0
4.9
4.4
4.3
961
Haryana
7.2
8.4
7.8
5.1
7.7
6.3
7.4
1045
Himachal
9.2
9.5
9.4
5.0
5.2
5.1
9.0
1064
Pradesh
Jammu &
7.3
5.4
6.4
6.0
5.0
5.5
6.2
713
Kashmir
Punjab
8.5
8.8
8.6
6.2
6.7
6.4
7.9
942
Rajasthan
5.9
6.7
6.3
5.6
6.1
5.8
6.2
1057

552 D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
Rural
Urban
All
Esti-
State
India mated
Male Female Both
Male Female Both
Sex
(M+F)
(M+F)
Ratio
Central
Madhya
6.3
6.8
6.5
5.4
6.4
5.9
6.4
1020
Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
6.4
6.7
6.6
5.1
6.0
5.6
6.3
981
Uttaranchal
8.0
7.3
7.7
6.1
8.8
7.4
7.6
892
Chhattisgarh
5.3
7.7
6.5
4.3
5.7
5.0
6.3
1417
East
Bihar
5.9
5.2
5.5
6.2
5.5
5.9
5.6
802
Orissa
9.0
8.0
8.5
7.3
6.1
6.8
8.3
894
West Bengal
6.2
6.4
6.3
9.0
9.5
9.2
7.0
997
Jharkhand
6.3
4.8
5.6
6.8
6.9
6.8
5.8
738
Northeast
Arunachal
5.9
5.4
5.7
1.9
1.5
1.7
5.2
851
Pradesh
Assam
5.3
4.3
4.8
5.4
5.0
5.2
4.9
712
Manipur
5.4
3.9
4.7
6.9
6.3
6.6
5.2
777
Meghalaya
4.8
4.7
4.8
3.3
3.2
3.2
4.6
939
Mizoram
6.0
4.1
5.1
6.0
4.2
5.1
5.1
672
Nagaland
5.2
1.9
3.6
5.3
0.7
3.2
3.4
264
Sikkim
5.9
5.7
5.8
3.5
2.6
3.1
5.5
921
Tripura
6.7
5.5
6.1
6.1
6.5
6.3
6.2
768
West
Goa
9.1
10.9
10.0
8.1
9.4
8.7
9.6
1185
Gujarat
6.7
6.8
6.8
5.4
6.9
6.1
6.6
1030
Maharashtra
8.3
8.8
8.6
6.5
7.6
7.0
7.9
1050
South
Andhra
7.3
7.7
7.5
5.3
6.4
5.8
7.0
1090
Pradesh
Karnataka
7.1
6.6
6.9
5.8
6.1
5.9
6.6
954
Kerala
10.6
12.3
11.5
10.3
10.9
10.6
11.2
1258
Tamil Nadu
8.7
8.5
8.6
7.3
8.5
7.9
8.4
1049

After Age 60 in India 553
Rural
Urban
All
Esti-
State
India mated
Male Female Both
Male Female Both
Sex
(M+F)
(M+F)
Ratio
All Other UTs*
Chandigarh
1.4
2.2
1.7
5.6
5.1
5.4
4.9
756
Daman & Diu
0.6
4.0
1.8
4.8
8.9
6.7
3.1
2071
Dadra and
6.7
3.5
5.1
2.3
3.3
2.7
4.9
512
Nagar Haveli
Lakshdweep
6.1
7.3
6.7
5.8
7.3
6.6
6.6
1267
Pondicherry
9.0
9.8
9.4
6.8
12.0
9.3
9.3
1361
Andaman &
6.2
4.3
5.3
3.3
3.1
3.2
4.7
617
Nicobar
Source: NSS, 2004.
3. Socioeconomic Profile
Religious/Caste/Tribe Affiliation
The proportion of elders to the total population in their respective sex
and type of residence is given in Table 5. A person’s religious affiliation
and ageing will not be considered for any possible end product, but
involvement in faith based organisations often provides curative and
psychosocial advocacy among elders.
TABLE 5: Distribution of the Religious/Caste/Tribe Affiliation of the
Elderly by their Sex and Type of Residence
Rural
Urban
All
Type of Residence
India
Male
Female Total
Male
Female Total
Religious Affiliation
Hinduism
85.8
85.6
85.7
80
79.9
80
84.3
Islam
8.3
8.4
8.3
12.2
12.1
12.1
9.3
Christianity
2.3
2.6
2.5
3.2
3.8
3.5
2.7
Sikhism
2.4
2.2
2.3
2.4
1.9
2.2
2.3
Others
1.1
1.3
1.2
2.1
2.3
2.2
1.5
Caste/Tribe
Scheduled Tribe
8.2
8.0
8.1
2.0
1.6
1.8
6.6
Scheduled Caste
19.5
18.8
19.2
11.6
12.5
12.1
17.4
Other Backward
42
42.3
42.1
31.8
33.4
32.6
39.8
Class (OBC)
Others
30.3
30.9
30.6
54.6
52.4
53.5
36.2
Total per cent
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Source: NSS, 2004.

554 D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
Ageing is very high among the Zoroastrian and Jain population.
Among the Islamic population the proportion of elders is only 5.2 per
cent which is less than the national estimate (not shown separately in
the table). A higher proportion of elders of Islamic, Christian and other
religious faiths are found in urban areas than in rural areas. Among
Christians, the proportion of elders is high among women than men in
both rural and urban areas. Elders among the Scheduled Tribes,
Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes are higher in rural
areas than urban areas.
Marital Status
Table 6 shows the marital status of the elders. Nearly 60 per cent of the
elders were married and nearly 39 per cent of them were widowed at
the time of this survey. Unmarried elders are relatively higher in urban
areas. Between genders, the proportion of married men is almost
double than women among the elderly. Nearly 60 per cent of the elderly
women are widows in both rural and urban areas. The proportion of
divorced/separated men are high in rural than in urban areas.
TABLE 6: Marital Status of the Elderly in India
Rural
Urban
All
Marital Status
India
Male
Female
Both
Male
Female
Both
(M+F)
(M+F)
Unmarried
1.6
0.6
1.1
1.7
1.2
1.5
1.2
Currently Married
78.6
39.1
59.0
82.3
38.6
60.0
59.2
Widow/Widower
19.4
59.8
39.5
15.8
59.7
38.3
39.2
Divorced/Separated
0.4
0.5
0.4
0.1
0.5
0.3
0.4
Total
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Source: NSS, 2004.
Educational Status
The per cent distribution of elderly is given in Table 7. More than half of
the elderly (65.8%) in India are illiterates. Nearly three-quarters of the
rural elderly are illiterates whereas 41.2 per cent of the urban elderly
are illiterate. The gender gap in education is very high. It can be
attributed to the gender discrimination which has existed in Indian
society since the earlier days. Nearly 89 per cent of the rural elderly
women are illiterate. Literacy without formal schooling is high among
urban elderly woman.

After Age 60 in India 555
TABLE 7: Percentage Distribution of the Educational Level of the Elderly
by their Sex and Type of Residence
Rural
Urban
All
Educational Level
India
Male
Female
Both
Male
Female
Both
(M+F)
(M+F)
Illiterate
58.8
88.8
73.7
23.2
58.5
41.2
65.8
Literate Without
2.3
0.9
1.6
2.2
2.1
2.2
1.7
Formal Schooling
Below Primary
12.4
4.2
8.4
10.5
9.7
10.1
8.8
Primary
12.2
3.9
8.1
13.8
10.4
12.1
9.1
Middle
7.4
1.3
4.4
12.7
8.1
10.3
5.8
Secondary
4.4
0.5
2.5
16.0
5.5
10.7
4.4
Higher Secondary
1.1
0.1
0.6
5.0
1.9
3.4
1.3
Graduate and Above
1.1
0.1
0.6
14.5
3.5
8.8
0.4
Diploma/Certificate
0.2
0.1
0.2
2.2
0.3
1.2
2.6
Total
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Source: NSS, 2004.
Living Arrangements
Table 8 shows the family structure of the elderly. According to this
survey 0.5 per cent of the elderly are living in a private or public old age
home, and 4.7 per cent of them live alone. The proportion of elders who
TABLE 8: The Living Pattern of the Elderly by their Sex and Place of
Residence
Rural
Urban
All
India
Male
Female
Both
Male
Female
Both
(M+F)
(M+F)
Living in an Old
0.3
0.7
0.5
0.2
0.4
0.3
0.5
Age Home
Living Alone
2.5
7.4
4.9
1.9
6.2
4.1
4.7
Living with Spouse
16.5
8.9
12.7
13.5
7.7
10.5
12.2
Living with Spouse
60.8
28.9
45.0
65.8
29.9
47.5
45.6
and Children
Living without
17.1
48.3
32.6
15.6
49.0
32.7
32.6
Spouse but with
Children
Living with
2.5
5.1
3.8
2.5
6.3
4.4
3.6
Relatives
Living with
0.3
0.7
0.5
0.5
0.5
0.5
0.5
Non-relatives
Total
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Source: NSS, 2004.

556 D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
live with their spouse and children is 45.6 per cent and those who live
with children but without spouse is 12.2 per cent. Gender differentials
highlight discrimination against elderly women. Nearly one-third of
the elderly women live with their spouse, or spouse and children. The
proportion of elderly women who live in any old age home or live alone
is much higher than their male counterparts in both rural and urban
areas. This could be attributed to the high proportion of widows among
the elderly people or the cultural stigma attached to remarriage in the
Indian context.
Economic Profile
Table 9 explains the economic dependency of elders (partially or fully)
and on whom. Nationally, 65 per cent of the elderly people have an
economic dependence on others. The proportion is almost the same in
rural and urban areas. The economic dependency among elderly women
is quite high; about 85 per cent are fully or partially dependent on others.
Economically independent elderly men and women are found in urban
areas of India. Most of the supporters of elderly are their own children
(78%). Among the elderly who depend on others for economic support,
more than 90 per cent of them depend on their own children and spouses.
TABLE 9: Economic Dependency of the Elderly in India
Rural
Urban
All
India
Male
Female
Both
Male
Female
Both
(M+F)
(M+F)
Economic Dependency*
Economically
52.0
14.1
33.2
56.1
17.3
36.3
33.5
Independent
Partially Depend on
15.5
12.6
14.1
13.5
9.7
11.5
13.3
Others
Fully Depend on
32.5
73.2
52.7
30.4
73.1
52.2
51.8
Others
Support Provided to Economically Dependent
Spouse
7.0
15.9
12.7
6.0
19.2
14.8
13.2
Own Children
85.0
74.6
78.4
86.5
71.0
76.2
77.9
Grand Children
2.2
3.1
2.8
1.8
3.0
2.6
2.7
Others
5.7
6.3
6.1
5.7
6.8
6.4
6.2
Total
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Source: NSS, 2004.
Note: 1.4 per cent are with missing information.
Work Status
In India the retirement age for formal or organised jobs is age 60, but
it varies in different states, from 55 to 62 years. Table 10 explains the
work participation rate among the elders by their respective age group.

After Age 60 in India 557
The work participation among elders is as high as 38 per cent in rural
areas whereas in urban areas it is 20 per cent. As expected the work
participation and age are negatively related; as the age increases, the
work participation decreases. Almost every second elder in the age group
60–69 years, in rural areas, is involved in some kind of economic activity.
More than three-quarters (76.1%) of the male elders in rural India have
reported themselves as workers. The work participation rate decreases
as the age increases and nearly 40 per cent of the male elders in the age
group 75–79 are workers in rural areas. Elderly women’s work
participation is considerably lesser than their male counterparts in both
rural and urban areas. The gender gap between the elder’s work
participation in rural areas is nearly double than in urban areas, i.e.,
42.6 per cent points in rural areas to 25.0 per cent points in urban areas.
TABLE 10: Percentage of Elderly Reported as Workers to Total Elderly
Population by their Sex and Type of Residence
Rural
Urban
All
Age Group
India
Male
Female Total
Male
Female Total
60–64
76.2
26.1
51.3
42.3
13.2
27.4
45.7
65–69
64.6
17.0
40.3
37.4
7.6
21.8
35.9
70–74
45.8
7.4
26.8
27.4
5.0
16.2
24.3
75–79
40.8
6.4
24.5
18.8
1.6
10.4
20.5
80+
16.7
2.8
10.3
11.1
1.6
6.11
9.1
All 60+
59.3
16.7
38.2
33.0
8.0
20.2
33.8
Source: NSS, 2004.
The usual activities of the elders who have stated themselves as
workers are given in Table 11. More than half of the elderly workers are
self employed and their proportion is higher in urban areas. Most of the
TABLE 11: Percentage Distribution of Working Elders by the Type of Usual
Activity, Residence, and Sex
Rural
Urban
All
Usual Activity*
India
Male Female Both
Male Female Both
(M+F)
(M+F)
Self Employment
67.7
21.4
57.6
65.7
32.8
59.1
57.8
Own Account Worker
2.6
2.9
2.6
3.7
0.2
3.0
2.7
Unpaid Family Worker
5.7
36.2
12.4
5.3
23.6
9.0
11.9
(helper in HH enterprise)
Regular Salaried-wage/
2.1
1.4
1.9
15.3
15.6
15.4
3.9
Employee
Casual Wage Labourers
0.1
0.0
0.1
0.1
0.0
0.1
0.1
Other Type of Work
21.8
38.1
25.3
9.8
27.7
13.4
23.6
Total
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Source: NSS, 2004.
*Applicable for those who stated that they are working.

558 D.P. Singh and Princy Yesudian
elderly men have stated that they are self employed whereas most of
the elderly women are employed as unpaid family workers or helpers in
household enterprises. Self employment is stated by more than 66 per
cent of the elderly women wherein the proportion of rural women is 21.4
per cent and of urban women is 32.8 per cent. In rural areas, 36.2 per
cent of the elder women and in urban areas 23.6 per cent of the elderly
women are employed as unpaid family workers.
4. Health Profile of the Elderly
The elderly people are more vulnerable to disease than the general
population due to their weakened immunity and declining physiological
condition. The physical mobility of the individuals and their
self-perceived current health status, is presented by gender in Table 12.
More than 90 per cent of the elderly are physically mobile, 6.6 per cent
are confined to home and 1.5 per cent are confined to bed (the ailing
person is required or compelled to mostly stay in bed at his/her
residence/home). Physical mobility is high among elderly men than
elderly women in both urban and rural areas. The health condition and
physical mobility is poorer for urban elderly women than rural elderly
women. A little more than three-quarters of the elderly have stated that
their health is in excellent or good condition. Urban elderly perceive their
health as being better than rural elderly. Rural elderly women perceive
that they are in poor health condition than their urban counterparts.
TABLE 12 : The Health Condition of the Elderly in India
Rural
Urban
All
Health Condition
India
Male
Female
Both
Male
Female
Both
(M+F)
(M+F)
Physical Mobility of the Elderly
Physically Mobile
93.1
91.0
92.1
93.1
89.9
91.4
91.9
Confined to Home
5.6
7.6
6.6
5.2
8.4
6.8
6.6
Confined to Bed
1.3
1.5
1.4
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.5
Current State of Health (Own perception)*
Excellent
6.3
3.5
4.9
8.4
5.1
6.7
5.3
Good
71.4
69.9
70.7
72.6
71.7
72.2
71.0
Poor
22.3
26.6
24.5
19.9
23.2
21.2
23.6
Total
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Source: NSS, 2004.
*4% of the elderly did not provide information for this question.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Nearly 60 per cent of the elderly women are widows in both rural and
urban areas. According to this survey 0.5 per cent of the elderly are living
in some old age home, either private or public and 4.7 per cent of them

After Age 60 in India 559
live alone. More than three-fourths (76.1%) of the elderly male in rural
India have reported themselves as workers. The gender gap between the
elders’ work participation in rural areas is nearly double than in urban
areas, that is 42.6 per cent point in rural areas and 25.0 per cent point in
urban areas. Among elderly who depend on others for economic support,
more than 90 per cent depend on their own children and spouses for it.
The health condition of elderly women is worse than elderly men in both
urban and rural areas. More of the urban elderly women are confined to
home or bed than their counterparts in rural areas.
The situation of elders in India could be enhanced in the coming
future. Educated elders are economically productive. The current
global economy where skill is valued has opened up many employment
opportunities for the elders in India. More and more retired people are
employed. The retirement age limit in the country too has increased in
many governmental organisations. To attract the elderly consumers
many companies are involving elderly models in their advertisements.
With the increasing effort to empower women, the government has
developed many schemes. More and more women are entering the
labour force. Many working women prefer that their own
parent/relative look after their children.
In the future, the role of elders could be changed from ‘care receivers’
to ‘care givers’. For example, in many of the African countries with a
high magnitude of HIV/AIDS deaths, the children who have lost their
parents to the disease are looked after by their grandparents.
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THE INDIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, Vol ume 68, Issue 4, October 2007