An universally applicable definition of whatconstitutes old age is elusive. In many developing countries, old age is seento begin at the point when active contribution is no longer possible 5. It isoften erroneously assumed that older individuals become senile and lose theirability to function physically and intellectually. Although some individualsmay develop illness or become compromised physically and mentally, it ispossible for older persons to maintain a high degree of physical andintellectual activity into their very late years 6.
Aging is one of the emerging problems in Bangladesh.This problem has been gradually increasing with its far reaching consequences. Accordingto BBS (2001)7 percentage of aged population (60+) is only 6.13. This numberwill reach 14.6 million (about 9 percent of the total population) by the year2025 (Concepcion, 1987; East-West Center, 2002) 8,9 . But Abedin (1996) 10focused on “The aging in SAARC Countries” does not appear to be alarming tillto-day-percentages of the elderly vary between 5 to 6. Living arrangements are an important component ofthe overall well-being of the elderly.
In the absence of well-developed systemsfor providing social services to the elderly, the elderly must rely on those withwhom they live in close proximity for economic, social and physical support astheir economic productivity and health declining (Domingo and Casterline, 1992)11. In Thailand, there is a widespread expectation that the elderly will betaken care of by their children and that at least one child will co-reside withthem (Cowgill, 1972; Knodel, Havanon and Pramualratana, 1984; Pramualratna,1990; Tuchrello, 1989) 12,13,14,15. It was found that survival of elderly isincreased if they live with a spouse or sons and daughters (Mostafa andGinneken, 2000) 16.
Murray et al. (1992) 17 observed that the ratioof self-perceived morbidity varies by disease and across communities. Theyfound that morbidity generally increases with age, is greater for men thanwomen, and is more common among the rich than the poor. Although social supporthas a major impact on the health and well-being of the elderly, it is lessclear how this effect might operate (George, 1989) 18. Unlike elderly men,who may have their wives to depend on when they fall ill, older women are quitelikely to have to rely on children and other relatives. Older women face differenthealth problem compared to older men. From a study by Kabir (1994) 19, theaged in Bangladesh shows a depressing picture. In this survey, among other things,about 77 per cent of the total sample reported that they did not have adequate incometo meet their basic needs.
One out of every three in the sample suggested thatgovernment should come forward to help the aged, while some also suggested thatthe state should provide food and medical treatment at a nominal cost. So, thelong term caring need of the aged in terms of community and institution based servicesis going to be a matter of great concern. A survey study on living arrangementsof the elderly and their sources of support reveal a predominant pattern ofco-residence with their spouse and/or their children (Samad and Abedin, 1999)20 and those who are not co-residents but live in close proximity of childrenand spouse. Thus, the living and health care arrangements of the elderly in viewof demographic change and socio-economic transformation taking place in thiscountry and also to explore the current situation and future trend ofpopulation aging under the changing condition, proper investigation is firmlyneeded. This study aims to fulfil this need.
Health is a major concern of old age. It was foundby Mostafa and Streatfield (2003) 21 that worries among the poor wereprobably about inadequate economic support, poor health, inadequate livingspace, unfinished familial tasks, lack of recreational facilities and theproblems of spending time. Many questions revealed information about health conditionsof the elderly. According to Fillenbaum (1984) 22, selfperceived healthstatus may be better indicator of potential service use than of actual healthcondition. However, self-assessments of health are common components of population-basedsurveys. To calculate the health status respondents were asked a question ‘whatis your current health status?’ The answers were recorded on a three-point scale:Healthy, fairly healthy and unhealthy.
Sexis one of the key variables in health research. Some studies (Strauss et al., 1992 )23 found that health problems increase with age, but that women reported morehealth problems at earlier ages than do men. Lack of education is alsoassociated with poorer health. Health events are usually more frequent andbecome confused with one another.
The illness of the elderly are multiple andchronic in nature. In old age the elderly are found to suffer from diseaseslike arthritis, gastric, blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and so on. Prevalenceof malnutrition, eye-sight problems, hearing problems among the olds are alsoobserved (BDHS, 2000)24. The health problems in old age are often compoundedby attributing ailment of onset of old age.