3: Emerging living arrangements of older adults in India: patterns and welfare implications

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In India, the living arrangements of older adults are incredibly important as the family is often the major source of care and support. Hence, any loss of family could have significant negative consequences for the long-term care, economic, physical, social and psychological well-being of older people. Two forces in particular are impacting on the living arrangements of older people in India: 1) demographic and epidemiological transitions, such as reduction in fertility and increase in life-expectancy of adults, and 2) migration, both domestic and international. This chapter examines the various living arrangements of older adults in India, the factors associated with living arrangements and the welfare implication of living arrangement patterns on the older adults. To do so, the chapter combines datasets from the UNFPA, India-sponsored research project on ‘Building Knowledge Base on Population Ageing in India’ (BKPAI), the National Family Health Surveys and the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI). These data reveal that 1) there is an increasing incidence of older people living independently, that is not co-residing with their adult children or grandchildren, in India; 2) older adults who live alone have lower standard of living compared to older adults who live with children, spouses or with others; and 3) living arrangement pattern has no bearing on the subjective well-being of the older persons. This indicates that living alone is not necessarily seen as a burden by older people. Such analysis is new and problematises the cultural norm of co-residence as a pathway to well-being.

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