Elder Care — what can the government do?
Every week I meet some old patient, who has been practically abandoned by their sons and daughters. They are effectively orphans. Parent-child relationship is special, but is also an unspoken social contract — “I take of you when you are a kid, you take care of me when I am old”. This quid pro quo, has been maintained by shared culture and peer pressure. Unfortunately neither the bonds of love, nor the threads of shared destiny prevent the ugly fate that befalls these old parents.
Some abandoned elders are rich, others are poor . The well to do won’t do well, if they are abandoned — but at least they can hire people to take care of them. There are even posh old age homes away from the maddening crowd, in some nice hill station — with all amenities.
The middle class (and the poor) don’t get these. They too pay taxes all their life — but get little back in their old age. Only in 2021, Government of India exempted people >75 years from paying IT on pension.
Some might say, a cultural renaissance is the solution — but it is about as likely as finding elixir in a mirage.
Meanwhile, what can the government do ?
- Awareness about retirement planning
- Creation of a (mandatory) scheme like 401(k) as it exists in the US that covers all employees
- Construction of government owned or govt backed old age homes. These can even be public private partnership. Naturally this is a massive expense — but it can be financed by funneling a portion of the tax collected from people above 50. Or they can create schemes like pay from 45 to 60 and you get free stay in a retirement home after 60
- Legal framework to penalise elder abuse to the maximum possible extent
With increasing life expectancy, more and more people will get a rude shock — their cherished children aren’t what they hoped would be. It’s the moral imperative of our government to dampen that shock and provide some solace.