With increasing life expectancy and the consequent
large numbers of people reaching 60 years and above, the health
problems in the geriatric sphere of life in India is gaining
importance. Recognising this, Indian Council of Medical Research,
listed Geriatrics as a priority research area and instituted
a Task Force Project under the Mental Health Section. The
first phase of the project 'Problems of the Aged Seeking Psychiatric
Help' was conducted in the Institute of Psychiatry, Madurai
Medical College, Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, with
Prof. A. Venkoba Rao, as the Chief Investigator. The project
lasted for 3 years (1981-1984) and the findings have since
been published. The conclusions from this prompted the initiation
of the second phase 'Health Care of the Rural Aged'. Prof.
Rao and his project staff have undertaken a carefully planned
study based at Kallandiri Primary Health Centre and its subcentres
near Madurai with a catchment area of 100,000 population.
The study (1984-1988) has been a comprehensive one with the
collection of data on demography (age, sex, marital and socioeconomic
status, literacy, occupation), family composition and integration,
social integration, the occurrence of physical and psychiatric
morbidity, disabilities and handicaps. The subjects were followedup
for three years and the outcome of the intervention measures
noted. Most importantly, the project involved training of
medical officers and Multi Purpose Health Workers at the Primary
Health Centre in recognising and dealing with the Problems
of the aged. Manuals for these have been evolved by the researchers.
Rehabilitation measures were undertaken with the existing
facilities. The attitudes of the elderlies towards the services
offered and the impact of the geriatric clinic in the area
were studied by subsample surveys.
This study has offered rich data which will
be useful for researchers, planners and students to understand
the magnitude of the health problems of the aged population
in rural India. The significant conclusion of the study is
that the care of the aged should be comprehensive and a total
one comprising physical, psychiatric, social, family, economic,
nutritional and rehabilitational aspects to mention the important
ones. It is only then their care can be meaningful and relevant.
The Indian Council of Medical Research, appreciates
the efforts of Prof. Rao in the preparation of this report
and acknowledges the help of the consultants.