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Decline in health and emergence of certain illnesses have been reported as the first category of cues or ‘body reminders’ of ageing in a study by Karp, 2000 (cited in Vincent, 2003) based on qualitative interviews with male and female professionals in America. Similar results have been found in studies on the aged in India, where decline in health status, restrictive activity pattern and being ‘inactive’ were associated with old age (Rajan et al., 1999). These perceptions of the aged are substantiated by empirical evidence which shows that a positive relation exists between age and morbidity among adults, i.e. at old age there is higher prevalence of morbidity implying that the risk of illness and morbidity is higher among the aged (Duraisamy, 2001). Further it has been found that as age advances the probability of disability also increases (Gupta and Sankar, 2003).
As men and women live longer there will be an increase in aged persons with chronic illness and disability which is a matter of concern for ageing individuals as well as health care planners of the society. Chronic morbidities and disabling conditions adversely affect the quality of life of the elderly. Poor health is a cause for concern among the aged as illness episodes have the potential to cause economic shock (Crystal et al., 2000), lead to financial dependency (Pal, 2004), loss of autonomy, reduced social contact and loneliness.