What are the provisions made in the 'Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007'?

Answer: The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007 (External website that opens in a new window) is an initiative of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (External website that opens in a new window). It was introduced in the Lok Sabha (External website that opens in a new window) on 20th March 2007. The Bill states that adult children and grandchildren who are earning members are required to maintain and take care of their parents or grandparents. Maintenance refers to the provision of proper food, clothing, housing and medical treatment.

Parents include biological, adoptive and step parents. Also, any relative of a senior citizen who is in possession of property or who stands to inherit the property of the concerned senior citizen is liable to provide maintenance. An important feature of the proposed bill is that it would provide protection not just to parents who are over the age of 60 years but also to every parent who is in need of care.

The bill proposes to set up tribunals in every district where aggrieved parents may complain about being neglected. All elders, who are unable to maintain themselves through their own earning or out of the property owned by them, shall be entitled to make an application. The tribunal will pass an order regarding the amount of maintenance to be provided. Children, grandchildren or relatives may also face a jail term, have to pay a fine or be disinherited from property bequeathed to them.

What is the age when one can avail benefits set aside for senior citizens?

Answer: Different sectors have prescribed different ages for offering discounts and benefits to senior citizens:

The National Policy of Older Persons (External website that opens in a new window) recognizes a person who is 60 years of age and above as a Senior Citizen. It resulted in the creation of the National Council of Older Persons (External website that opens in a new window). This Council is taking steps to ensure that the uniform age of 60 years and above is taken into account for availing facilities and benefits to senior citizens. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has also written to all Ministries and State Governments concerned for adopting a uniform age of 60 years for conferring senior citizen status

I live alone. How do I ensure my safety?

Answer: As children migrate and settle in different cities, senior citizens are left to stay alone. Isolation and frail health exposes them to assaults and other such criminal acts. Here are some tips (External website that opens in a new window) about how you can prevent the same from happening to you:

  • Register the name of domestic help and drivers (External website that opens in a new window) at the nearest police station by filling in the appropriate form. This form with their photos will then be sent to the police stations at the workers' native places so their background can be immediately verified.
  • Install safety features such as a peephole facility, safety latch or iron grill so that you can scan each visitor before allowing them entry. Be extra careful while allowing unknown persons like vegetable sellers, washermen and milkmen inside.
  • Do not open cupboards, show valuables or discuss financial matters in front of domestic help. They may be tempted to carry out an unlawful act.
  • Do not withhold pay, derogate or mistreat domestic workers. They may seek revenge.
  • Develop a network of friends and talk to your neighbours to ensure that you do not live a secluded life. Go for regular walks in groups and socialise.
  • Do not keep valuables at home. Store jewellery in a bank locker and cash in your savings account. Try and keep a dog if possible.
  • Keep important telephone numbers handy. This includes that of friends or relatives living nearby as well as that of your local police station.
  • Delhi Police (External website that opens in a new window) has designated beat and divisional constables to keep a record of senior citizen residences. Inform them if you are having any problems. Keep in touch with your local police. You may also dial 100 or 1291 in case of an emergency.

Be vigilant at all times and don't trust anyone blindly. These steps will guarantee your safety and protect you in case something untoward happens.

What is a Senior Citizen Reverse Mortgage Loan?

Answer: A large part of the savings of Senior Citizens is tied up in non-liquid assets such as homes and property. Senior Citizens usually do not have a regular income and if they exhaust their savings, then it gets difficult to meet living expenses without having to sell their house. A reverse mortgage (External website that opens in a new window) allows a senior citizen who owns a house to avail of a monthly stream of income against mortgage of the house. The senior citizen remains the owner and occupies the house throughout his or her lifetime, without repayment or servicing of the loan. This system allows Senior Citizens to convert their homes into cash without having to sell their property.

The monthly amount paid by the reverse mortgage company can be used to meet medical expenses, pay utility bills and so on. The borrower does not need to repay the loan as long as he/she continues to live in the house. They can never owe more than the value of their house. After the death of the Senior Citizen, the lending institution sells the house to recover the amount of the mortgage plus interest. All amounts in excess are given to the heirs of the borrower. The basic difference between a reverse mortgage and a regular mortgage is the fact that a reverse mortgage has no predetermined tenure and does not have to be paid back in monthly installments. This makes is extremely viable for Senior Citizens.

The amount a Senior Citizen may receive per month is determined according to the value of their property, their age and the prevalent interest rate. Generally, people who have a more valuable home and are older get a larger amount of money per month. The National Housing Bank (External website that opens in a new window) (NHB), which regulates housing finance, has enumerated operational guidelines through which this facility will be extended by Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs). PLIs include Scheduled Banks and Housing Finance Companies (HFCs) registered with the NHB.

Some reverse mortgage schemes offered by Primary Lending Institutions in India are the:

Institutions such as ICICI Bank, Bank of Baroda, Oriental Bank of Commerce and Andhra Bank have also planned to launch similar reverse mortgage schemes in the near future.