Budget: Elderly want counselling services, accessible infra & minimal GST on products used by seniors – Times of India

NEW DELHI: An analysis of budget expectations of senior citizens draws attention to their concern over accessible infrastructure and high rates of GST applicable on many of the services and products used by the elderly among other things.
The analysis, based on a survey by Agewell Foundation involving interactions with 10,000 elderly persons from across states, brings into focus the aspirations of senior citizens in the present era, marked by nuclear families. Nearly 76% of older persons suggested that the government should make products and services like adult diapers and wheelchairs exempt from GST or place them in lower GST rate slabs. Approximately 2/3rd of respondents (6785 out of 10000 respondents) opined that old age pension schemes should be more realistic and the monthly pension amount should be increased.
Foundation’s founder chairman Himanshu Rath said, “As per the analysis conducted in mid-January, it was found that 76% of elderly respondents admitted that because of the growing elderly population, the government should focus on their special requirements.”
Rath said the survey revealed that 52% of respondents were in favour of more tax-free investment options and financial security measures, exclusively for older persons.
Concerns over nutrition also weighed in the minds of the elderly with 65% of the respondents (6505 out of 10000 respondents) suggesting that government should make necessary provisions in the coming budget for providing nutri-kits to the elderly from BPL families every month and prioritize healthcare and support systems for older persons from underprivileged and marginalised sections.
The analysis is telling with regard to concern over accessibility of public spaces. Nearly 71% of elderly respondents sought provisions for an age- friendly environment across the country, ensuring that public spaces and services are accessible to older persons. As many as 36% of the respondents also said that there should be door-step healthcare services for the elderly.
Nearly 1/3rd (32%) of respondents wanted the government to ensure online counselling for all kinds of psychological/medical/financial/legal issues being faced by older persons. Also, given that many elderly wish to work post retirement, the analysis highlights that 37% of respondents suggested that the government should initiate a scheme to create self-employment avenues for senior citizens.
The Foundation has written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighting the aspirations of the elderly from the budget in a petition. “Under the social pension scheme, the monthly amount of old age pension should be revised according to prevailing inflation. The current share of the Central government in the monthly old-age pension must be increased up to Rs. 5000 per month for every old person. The state government should also be advised to modify its share accordingly,” the petition emphasises. The Foundation has also suggested that a self-employment scheme for elderly is the need of the hour to tap the unexplored potential of older persons, who have experience, time, and above all zeal to work in old age to keep themselves engaged and connected with the mainstream.

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