Today has been all about ageing and care in the UK and India. Over 20 presentations. So no much option to photograph or think about much else. It has been a fascinating and incredibly constructive day, with researchers from both countries working to understand the realities of ageing in these two very different societies, and to identify opportunities for learning and cooperation.
From the West we usually think of countries like India as having ‘young’ populations compared to us. However the population in India is ageing at a much faster rate than the relatively gentle ageing we have experienced in the West. And the volumes of population involved are of a completely different magnitude. 9% of the population in India is aged over 65, which may not seem a huge problem, but this is a country with a population of 1.2 billion, so it translates into a 100 million older people. In contrast, in the UK, the proportion of people aged 65 or more is 16%, which is just over 10 million people.
And another hugely important factor is that in the Western countries the ageing of the population has happened during a sustained period of economic growth and improvement in the living standards of older people. The situation in India is, of course, very different, particularly for people in rural areas, where a large proportion of the older population are below the poverty line, have not benefitted much from economic development and have very little access to social protection (including pensions) or services. And if you add the fact that younger people are increasingly having to migrate to other areas in search of work (therefore not able to provide informal care for their parents), you can quickly see that ageing is an issue that needs to be taken very seriously in India.
It has been a privilege to learn about the impressive and rigorous work that so many researchers in India are carrying out, particularly collecting longitudinal data about older people which should provide a much sounder knowledge base for the formulation of future policies to tackle the challenges posed by ageing.
From my perspective, it has been an enormously stimulating day. Not just because of learning so much about the Indian situation (although it may take a while and plenty of reading to absorve this properly), but also for the very process involved in trying to understand which bits of my research maybe relevant from the perspective of a developing country. And I have learnt one or two things on methodology that may well help improve the way we do things in the UK too…
A longer version of this post has been published at the LSE Health and Social Care blog