Raising awareness of India's elderly

Indian city sceneJuly 2009

Research from the New Dynamics of Ageing programme is highlighting the contributions and needs of India's older population to policymakers.

The World Health Organisation estimates that, within fifteen years, 75 per cent of the world's population aged over 60 will be living in developing countries. Yet, ageing is relegated to the margins of development policy and practice, with the needs and potential of women and men in later life going largely unnoticed.

India has possibly the highest global concentration of old age poverty. Nearly 71 million Indians were over 60 in 2001; 60 per cent have a fragile access to subsistence, and 30 per cent are living below the poverty line.

At the same time, poor families are choosing to educate their children, making them very dependent on older people's incomes. Their significant contribution to the economy has been largely ignored by policymakers.

Researchers from the New Dynamics of Ageing programme and their international partners have studied over 800 'below poverty line' households in India to understand the factors determining older people's capacity to support themselves or to access support from family and the state.

The research project is highlighting this issue for policymakers using publications, exhibitions, public hearings and meetings with officials, in order to influence planning decisions and pension policy.

Central to the project's impact strategy is the well-received photo exhibition 'We too contribute!': the elderly poor and Chennai’s economy. Extensive coverage of the photo exhibition in the Tamil and English language media (press, TV news, web coverage and news magazines) gave considerable visibility to the contribution of older workers to the economy.


  • The research is successfully bringing 'ageing' issues such as pension provision and age discrimination to the attention of key policymakers. through conference presentations, public hearings, media interviews and meetings with officials and politicians.
  • Researchers met Chennai authorities to discuss collaborating on further strategies to raise the profile of the working elderly poor - a timely intervention in the context of Chennai's urban renewal programme and the Chennai Master Plan 2010-26.
  • The research has also informed the Tamil Nadu Government advisor to the Supreme Court-appointed Commissioners on Food Security.

Further information