Care and Support Arrangements Among Elderly Residents of an Urban Slum in Tamil Nadu State, India

  • Gayathri BalagopalEmail author


For the socio-economically disadvantaged elderly who have aged with multiple deprivations, the onset of old age is marked by ill health, difficulties in functioning for some, coupled with decline in their already meagre economic resources and changes in their family composition (like loss of spouse). The ability of elderly to cope with old age and illness depends not just on their functional and financial independence, but also on care and support that they receive from family, state, non-governmental organisations and private-for-profit sector. This research investigates caregiving arrangements among the elderly based on primary data from a field survey conducted in 2005 in an urban slum in Chennai. The findings reveal that though co-residence rates with immediate family members and frequent face-to-face contact with non-resident children were high among elderly respondents, it did not translate into high social care provision for the elderly, as most were able to carry out ADL independently even if with some difficulty. Given the fragile economic condition of the elderly, majority of them received economic support. Among those who received care and support, family involvement was substantial, and the role of the state was significant in economic support (social security pensions) but absent in social care provision. Social care displayed gender asymmetry, with women providing bulk of care to the elderly, whereas most of the care recipients were elderly men. However, elderly women seem to be better resourced in terms of social networks to deal with old age, as they received care from diverse sources, unlike elderly men, whose predominant source of social care was their spouse. The gender asymmetry in caregiving has to be redistributed among other family members and the state, with a need to plan for formal, home-based care mechanisms for the elderly, in addition to universalisation of social security pensions for the elderly.


Elderly Slum Morbidity Caregiving Escort to health facility Care at home Economic support Caregiver 



Gayathri Balagopal is an independent researcher. This paper is based on the author’s unpublished PhD Thesis entitled ‘Morbidity, Medical Treatment, Social Care and Economic Support of the Elderly: A case study among the urban poor in Tamil Nadu State, India’, 2009 (2009) at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. The author wishes to acknowledge her PhD supervisor, Prof K Nagaraj and Reserve Bank of India for a fellowship during the PhD. This chapter is a modified version of a paper presented at a conference: 17th Biennial Conference of Association of Gerontology, India (AGI), and International Conference on Engaging and Empowering the Elderly (ICEEE-2014) during 15–16 September 2014, at Centre for Development Studies, Kerala.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ChennaiIndia

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