Socio-Economic Condition of the Aged

Among the various socio-economic factors which may describe the condition of the aged, only few of the factors will be discussed, considering their importance in an urban setup. Within this family headship by marital status, living arrangements are of special consideration to see the social status whereas, economic participation and dependence is considered to understand economic situation of the elderly. In a way these factors are linked to describe the condition of the aged specially the women as women’s economic dependence on their husband links their fortune to those of their husbands. Because wives are typically 5-10 years younger than their husbands, the probability of being widowed is also high for a woman (Cain 1986).

Marital Status and Household Headship

Marriage is near universal in India. Many literatures reveal that married persons are better in all economic and social aspects than those who are single and the worst condition is observed among those who are widow. Among the elderly there is hardly any variations observed between the country average and Delhi (Table 2). Overall pattern shows that currently married men are much higher than currently married women, whereas among the women proportion of widow is much higher than male. The high incidence of widowhood is an important factor in the low status of many elderly South Asian females (Martin 1990). Widows have more health problem because they tend to live with children and their families, and sometimes family problems can lead to mistreatment (Badithe and Ali 2003). Srivastava (2010) has observed that widowhood is predominant among the elderly women due to the substantial age difference between marriage partners, due to the differential life expectancy between male and females. Further she also added by saying that the rate of remarriage among males is much higher than among the females so the number of widows is higher than the widower in India. Gulati and Ranjan (1999) in this context, noted that (a) the incidence of widowhood steeply increased with the advancing of age among both men and women in India and (b) the incidence of widowhood, among women of 70 years and above, is very high in India, particularly relative to that of men in the same age group. Marital status of the elderly women is also indicative of their social status as widowhood imposes various restrictions on women. These social restrictions also deter them to venture out the labour market which probably they have not thought in the presence of their spouse. Or in many other situations they were restricted to do so. However, some of them force to take up work in the absence of their spouse, for their own maintenance and for the maintenance of their family.

The prevalence of patriarchal family system in India allows male member of the family, more often the eldest male member, to be the head of the household. A female member becomes the head only when she is living alone or when there are only female members in the family (Sivamurthy and Wadakannavar 2001). Rajan and Kumar (2003) also found that the highest proportion of female headed households was found among widowed and divorced women. Over the age women headship never crosses 50 % marks when they are within the union (Fig. 4). The present distribution is contrary to the findings of Sivamurthy and Wadakannavar (2001), where both currently married and never married reported fewer headships

Table 2 Marital status of the elderly by gender







Never married





Currently married




















Source Census of India, 2011

Fig. 4 Headship by marital status and age in NCT of Delhi, 2011. Source Based on Census 2011

with growing age. Burden of headship comes to women when she is widow, thus mentally and physically fragile and the most vulnerable.

Living arrangement of the elderly: Families are observed as the centre for providing support and care to its members. Living arrangement of the aged actually observes the household structure, i.e. with whom the aged are staying. Traditional families where co-residence of the older parents along with their adult children was predominant started declining in the developed countries over last century (Kramarow 1995). Population ageing in the developing countries is coinciding with rapid socio-economic and demographic changes. Thus changing family composition provides an indication of the human support available for the aged. The general pattern of living arrangement for the elderly in this rural society seems to be with spouse closely followed by with married children and unmarried children (Audinarayana et al. 1999). The household size is an indication of the degree of jointness among the generations. If more and more people are living together, the elderly are likely to get better attention including care during sickness (Rajan and Kumar 2003). A study on quality of life and living arrangement among the Chinese Canadian elders observed that elders will have higher well-being if they are the heads of household, rather than their children. It also has observed that living arrangements have no effect on the quality of life of married elders whereas living alone negatively affects well-being/social isolation of the widows (Gee 2000). The filial piety at societal level provides well-being and life satisfaction.

Delhi, which is mostly urban in nature, shows only 0.8 % one-member household (Census 2011) where aged person is the only family member. Though the percentage figure is low, the number of household hidden behind it is 28,192 (Table 3). There are another 38,000 two-member households where both the members are aged and 1085 three-member households where all three members are aged. Together they form 2 % of the total households. Within one-member households, it is important to note that proportion of households with only one female

Fig. 5 Distribution of all elderly households by gender, 2011. Source Based on Census 2011

Table 3 All-elderly households by number of members in the household




One-member HH



Two-member HH



Three-member HH



Source Census of India, 2011

aged member is high for India as well as for Delhi. Among two-member households, gap in the proportion of male-female is less in Delhi. It is assumed that they are mostly the elderly couple who are living alone (Fig. 5).

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