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Living Arrangements and Quality of Life

India’s ageing population is growing rapidly; over 60s constitute 7% of the total population and this is projected to triple in the next four decades.

Drawing on a wide range of studies, this book examines living arrangements across India and their impact on the care and wellbeing of older people. Addressing access to welfare initiatives and changing cultural norms including co-residence, family care and migration, it reveals the diversity of living arrangements, cultural customs and the welfare issues facing older adults in India.

This book offers a crucial examination for practitioners, researchers and policymakers seeking to understand and develop the infrastructure required to meet the needs of older people in India.

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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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The final chapter draws together the main issues and findings from the wealth of information presented in the previous chapters and reflect on what this means for researchers, social care providers and policy makers in India and elsewhere. Although each chapter makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the impact of the changing living arrangements on the care for older people in India, there are a number of common themes that connect them. The narrative that emerges across these chapters is one that challenges the assumed wisdom about the demographic, industrial and social change on older adults. The chapters in this book tell us a much more complex story about living arrangements and care for older adults in India. Rather than being a single, linear narrative it is a story about the heterogeneity of families, care and migration experiences.

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India has one of the most rapidly ageing populations on the planet. There is concern that this rate of population ageing, coupled with the decline of extended families, decreasing fertility rates, increasing life expectancy, widowhood, singlehood or strained intergenerational relationships, will have a negative impact on the availability of (family-based) care for older adults in India, resulting in poorer health and well-being. However, India is a complex and diverse country made up of different states, castes, cultures, and ethnic groups. Moreover, rates of population ageing are not uniform as Indian states are at diverse levels of demographic transition and vary to a great extent in their cultural practices, social norms and socio-political contexts. Indeed, while India’s older adult population has now risen to 8.57 per cent, in states such as Goa and Kerala the percentage of older adults is as high as 11.20 per cent and 12.55 per cent respectively. This introduction provides an overview of these issues by situating the subsequent chapters within the broad demographic trends already mentioned and gives an outline of the structure and chapters of the book. This chapter introduces the need for focus on living arrangements and care and highlight the social, economic and cultural contexts that shape the provision of care for older adults in India.

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This chapter investigates how life course obligations, expectations and practices are linked to older adults’ sense of well-being. It takes a life course approach with a specific focus on linked lives. Linked lives recognises that life trajectories of individuals are socially embedded and closely linked to the transitions of significant others such as family members. Moreover, it is important to see linked lives as translocal as they include older adults in migrant households, their adult children (co-residing or migrant children), grandchildren, caregivers and non-kin social networks. To explore these issues qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with 37 older adults. The participants included couples, widows and widowers. Participants in this study include both older adults co-residing with kin and older adults residing on their own. The results show that life stages and expectations of successful transition from one stage to the next was perceived as crucial for the offspring and for the older adults. The chapter observes that economic security, social support, health and better living conditions aid in realising the life course obligations and contribute towards the overall well-being of the older adults.

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Insufficient social security systems make families primarily responsible for providing support to older adults in India. Increased mobility of adult children, fewer siblings and increased longevity of older adults are some of the demographic changes influencing care arrangements in Indian households. This chapter applies a qualitative research approach to examine the evolving nature of care frameworks for older adults in the Indian context. This is done through examining the changing household living arrangements and complexities that exist in identifying caregiving motives and primary caregivers to older adults, especially in an emigration context where older adults are left behind. This chapter serves to initiate dialogue on the negotiated intergenerational contract that seems to have evolved in the background of changing family situations and modernisation, however, serves to still make possible reciprocal support exchanges between older adults and their adult children. Findings from this study indicate that adult children from emigrant households are responsive to parental needs of support and find ways to effect supportive exchanges and care arrangements. The intergenerational care arrangements reflect the emigration event-led adaptation of family and household structure to retain traditional familial ties and enable mutually supportive exchanges between adult children and their parents.

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