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Laws Related to Old Age

“Growing Old” is a natural process that every human undergoes in one’s lifetime. It basically refers to the decline in the functional capacity that occurs due to physiological transformation. Senior citizens are an asset to a society with their pool of varied experiences, ideas, knowledge and expertise. Looking at the present scenario, where the roots of the joint family system are eroding and with the intrusion of more and more number of women in paid employments, the older citizens are facing a lot of difficulties in terms of loneliness and social maladjustments. In rural areas where the joint family system continues to prevail, the older members are respected more and are considered as an integral part of families.

Most senior citizens are unaware of their rights, either because of illiteracy or lack of alertness. Their biggest problems could be subdivided into the following categories –

  • Economic problem
  • Physical and physiological problem
  • Psycho-social problem

Various international attempts have been made by the U.N. General Assembly 1991 to address the concerns of senior citizens. 18 principles have been adopted, which have been grouped into five clusters namely, independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment, and dignity of the older person. United Nations have also declared 1st of October as International day of older persons.

Various national efforts have also been made to protect the interests of the old aged:-

1)   Constitution of India, Directive Principle of State Policy, Article 41 states that “the state shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of underserved want.”

2)   Code of Criminal Procedure (Chapter IX) , Section 125(1)(2) requires persons having sufficient monetary means to take care of their parents if the latter are unable to take care for themselves.

3)   Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act,1956 Section 20 requires Hindu sons and daughters to maintain their elderly parents when parents are unable to maintain themselves.

India has also played a major role in safeguarding and protecting the vulnerable group of our country by granting various concessions and facilities and also by implementing various policies and programs for them:-

  1. Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 – It is a legislation initiated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India and attempts to address the problems of the elderly population of our country in various ways.

This Act makes it obligatory for children and their heirs to provide as maintenance a monthly allowance to their parents and other senior citizens of the family. It also provides a simple, speedy, and inexpensive mechanism for the protection of their life and property. Mandate for setting up of old age homes is also included.

Senior citizens who are unable to maintain themselves have a right under this statute to make an application to the designated tribunal to effectively claim their maintenance amount from their errant children/heirs.

State government has the power under this Act to set up a maintenance tribunal in every sub-division that would have the power to decide upon the level of maintenance. All appeals from the maintenance tribunal would lie in the Appellate tribunal (established at the district level).

The Act caps the maximum monthly allowance at Rs 10,000 per month. The establishment of old age homes has significantly taken off, with at least one old age home per district[1].

  1. Reverse Mortgages– Under such scheme the senior citizen mortgages his property to a lender in the capacity of a borrower, the lender thereby makes periodic payments to the borrower during his lifetime[2].
  2. New Pension scheme– This scheme enables an individual to save a certain amount through his working life[3].
  3. Health– The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provides separate queues for older persons in hospitals for procedures of registration and clinical examination. This is in addition to the concessions offered to them in the treatment of the diseases like cardiac problems, diabetes, kidney problem, blood pressure, joint and eye problem[4].
  4. Travel- i.) The Indian Railways gives 30% concessions in the ticket prices to all persons aged 60 years and above. It is 50% in case the senior citizen is a woman aged over 60 years. Other facilities like, priority for lower births, separate counter for booking (and cancelling tickets), ramps to roll in wheel chairs at the entry points (in few important stations), specially designed coaches with provisions for accommodating wheel chairs, handrails, and specially designed toilet for  disabled older citizen have also been put in place.                                                                                            While travelling by air, most elderly persons are encouraged to board first. Besides this, the Indian Airlines provides 50% concession on purchase of economy class tickets. And, Air India has been offering discount to senior citizen aged 60 years and above on international flights[5].
  5. Banking– Indian government gives high rate of interests to its senior citizens on certain savings plans which are run by the post offices and other private banks. They can also avail of Income tax rebate up to an income of Rs 1.85 lakhs per annum.[6]
  6. Housing-The Indian government provides housing facilities such as retirement homes and recreational or educational centers. These centers provide older persons with opportunities to spend their free time doing various activities. Most recreational centers have yoga clubs, fitness club, parks, spiritual session, picnic, food fests, libraries, art and craft, music classes and indoor games.[7]
  7. Miscellaneous- Courts in the country accord priority to cases involving older persons and ensure their expeditious disposal.[8]
  8. Annapurna scheme is being implemented since 2001 where 10 kgs of food grains are provided free of costs to old destitute people who are above the age of 65 years.[9]

International Comparison

Internationally also various laws have been developed for securing the interests of the old aged:-

  1. United States: Older American Act of 1965- created the administration on ageing within the department of health, education and welfare; authorized grants for the research and training in the field of ageing, for community planning, for implementing services for the elderly.[10]
  2. South Africa: Older Person Act no. 13 of 1996- provides strict control for registration of various kinds of facilities for the older people, makes abuse of the elderly a criminal offence; creates social and culture community- based services for the elderly.[11]
  3. Sri Lanka: Protection of Rights of Elder’s Act 2000- has established a National Older Persons’ Council, which requires children to provide care for their parents[12].
  4. Canada: Parents Maintenance Act, 1978 and 1993 respectively- mandates children to pay maintenance to dependent parents. The amount of maintenance has an upper limit, fixed at $20 per week[13]
  5. China: Law of the People’s Republic of China on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly Act 1996- places responsibility on family members to care for the elderly members; establishes a state based old age insurance system, increases legal protection available to the elderly (the most important being, speedy trials and other court procedures).[14]


 The government has tried its best to provide for the upliftment and protection of older persons (that could make their everyday living better) by drafting various governmental concessions, schemes and policies specifically for them. However the implementation of these well-intended instrument is very poor.

The other concern that has not been adequately addressed by legal instruments is the increased crime rate against the elderly populace on the streets and within the confines of their homes, robbery and dacoity being the primary reasons for their attack. Proper police patrolling, SOS facilities seem to be the urgent needs of this hour along with the implementation of the instruments that are already in place.

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