"With the advancement of medical care and health services, rising life expectancy is now a global phenomenon, leading to an unprecedented rise in the numbers of senior citizens in all societies around the world," he said.
Speaking on the occasion of presentation of the National Awards for Senior Citizens, Mukherjee said: "Our country is no exception. In the year 2001, the population of our elderly was over 7.66 crore. This is projected to increase further to 17.32 crore by 2026."
"However, it is ironical that economic growth, modernisation and the migration of our youth to urban areas for employment have created a situation where the elderly are being deprived of the respect, love and care that they need," he said.
The president said the greatest tragedy of old age is the perception of being unwanted and unloved and having no purpose in life.
"Our traditional joint family system that provides tremendous emotional and physical comfort and support to our elderly people is fast giving way to the nuclear family structure," he said.
"Thus, the elderly in our country are increasingly facing a variety of problems associated with modernity and growth and also the attitudinal change in social values," he said.
Calling upon people to be sensitive to the older citizens, Mukherjee said: "It is said that the true test of a developed and civilized society is the manner in which it values and protects the vulnerable sections of the society."
"I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for our society to prevent any erosion of the in-built safety mechanisms that our society has evolved for our elders."
He stated that the government must mainstream the issues concerning the aged and ageing in India.
Urging elderly not to consider themselves as redundant, Mukherjee said: "You are useful, you are valuable, you are experienced, your maturity can guide the younger generation."
--IANS (Posted on 01-10-2013)