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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.

New Delhi
7th November, 1990
Additional Director General
Indian Council of Medical Research
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