COVID-19: Here's what the elderly population was concerned about, more than the fear of infection
New Delhi: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the elderly population, especially those living alone, were forced to remain indoors, often without adequate support. According to a new survey, social isolation was a serious concern for seniors during the lockdown, ranking behind the fear of the infection. Surprisingly, the survey also revealed low insurance cover penetration among the populations aged 55 plus.
The 'State of The State of Seniors' survey by Antara, a subsidiary of Max Group, pointed out that financial security and sustainable incomes are a major worry for seniors, in addition to the fear of contracting serious ailments in their silver years.
The ongoing pandemic emphasised the role for strong immunity in preventing us from severe diseases. The senior population -- a cohort at considerable risk of contracting the virus -- began taking several measures to bolster their immunity and improve their health, says the survey.
Regular physical exercise coupled with a balanced diet was the most preferred measure to maintain good health. Yoga, which finds immense resonance among the senior population was also practiced by a little over one fourth of the respondents. Home remedies such as kadhas, herbal concoctions also became increasingly popular during the pandemic with more than 34 per cent of the respondents accessing them.
An alarming statistic was that despite greater concerns for health, close to 18 per cent of the senior population interviewed was taking no specific measures to become and stay healthy.
Notably, seniors are the most vulnerable and high-risk demographic segment due to their pre-existing conditions and comorbidities, requiring active intervention especially during a major healthcare crisis. The senior population in India is fast growing with over 20 million elders who stay alone, and the number is slated to rise in the next two decades.
While it is true that India has the advantage of a young population, it is important to look ahead and learn from the current crisis to address the concerns of the burgeoning elderly population.
The COVID-19 pandemic also underscored the importance of medical insurance -- something that is still lagging adequate penetration in India. In fact, standalone health insurers witnessed an average 20 per cent growth in premium collection in the current fiscal, says Antara. Yet, as per the data collected by us, a little over 11 per cent of the senior respondents did not have any health insurance. The most commonly availed health insurance cover was between Rs 5-10 lakh.
The survey was conducted across urban India, with a focus on the North (Delhi-NCR), the West (Mumbai and Pune), and the South (Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad), covering over 2,000 seniors aged 55 and above. Among the three regions surveyed, South India had the best health insurance coverage for seniors with all respondents having at least one health/medical insurance, while the Northern (17.7 per cent) and the Western (16.3 per cent) regions have reported a relatively high number of seniors with no medical/ health insurance.
The survey also found that 77 per cent of seniors across the three survey regions live independently either in their own or rented houses. Only 16 per cent seniors said that they live with their children/grandchildren. Seniors are increasingly preferring to live independently mostly in conventional establishments, but a reasonably large proportion -- 12 per cent in Southern metros residing in senior living communities.