Aged persons don’t deserve to be neglected, abused or abandoned
THE essential values of Indian culture and tradition are learnt through families. Throughout our childhood we are taught to respect elders and gestures such as touching their feet are practised out of respect. Even now, joint family systems exist and are valued where three or even four generations live together under one roof. However, their numbers are gradually decreasing as more people choose nuclear families especially in the cities.
A report by Helpage India is a reminder that the reality of India is changing rapidly and altering the adult children-parent relationships. It highlights the growing neglect and abuse of the aged in their homes over matters such as material wants, economic dependence and property disputes.
Neglect and abuse faced by the elderly
Sadly the older generation, seen as unproductive and a burden by many, pays the price of abuse, neglect and even abandonment. The abuse reported is common across cities and various social classes.
The report suggests that three out of ten people surveyed testified to being disrespected and neglected. Four out of ten faced verbal abuse and two recounted suffering almost daily at the hands of their sons and daughters-in-law. There are countless such instances, like those reported by the Hindustan Times, where ageing parents suffer from emotional, financial, verbal and physical abuse because of their adult children.
Motilal, an elderly plumber, in Delhi, continues to work but is unable to earn enough for his simple needs. He has to depend on his son who denies him enough food and money for medicines.
Mansi is a widow living with her son and daughter-in-law who only gives her two rotis a day. They even refused her money to get a crucial cataract operation.
Ramanna is a flower-seller in Bengaluru who, along with his wife, moved in with their son. Due to deteriorating health, he could no longer work as a street vendor. Now, both of them are forced to work all day like domestic servants and their basic needs are denied.
According to the World Health Organization, countries where the ageing populations are increasing, are also likely to witness a rise in elderly abuse. It defines elder abuse as ‘a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect’.
Dependent on others
India has one of the largest growing populations of elderly people in the world – 110 million citizens over the age of 60. This number is expected to reach 240 million by 2050. Financial insecurity, loneliness and isolation are among the major concerns of elderly Indians.
Typically, adult children are the primary caregivers of their older parents and responsible for their well-being. However, a steady rise in nuclear families seems to have led to greater insensitivity, neglect and abuse of the elderly by their children. A number of senior citizens also live alone. The lack of companionship and isolation coupled with limited mobility or ill health can cause depression and other disorders.
Without a proper social security or care system, the elderly are at their most vulnerable and dependent on others. Living with deteriorating health conditions, many are in need of crucial care that they are not able to afford. This is a deplorable situation in a country like India which is renowned for respect and high regard for the elderly.
Elders Lives Matter
Ageing is natural and irreversible and no one should be penalised for growing old. How we treat the elderly will determine how our young will treat us when we age. We can try and lead by example. Cultivating empathy and patience towards our elders, particularly ageing family members, is a pressing need.
Developing a strong bond with ageing parents, seeking their opinion in our decisions and involving them in our lives could be beneficial for all. Thanks to technology, in spite of being away from our parents or having busy lives, we can be in touch with them more than ever.
There are thousands of ways to show our love and care. By calling to check on them often, visiting during the holidays, encouraging children to stay connected with their grandparents through video calls, teaching parents to use apps, email, etc or sending them surprise gifts are effortless ways to tell them we are thinking about them.
An appeal to support our mission
Join GiveIndia’s Mission: #EldersLivesMatter and ensure that our less fortunate elderly are not living their twilight years suffering from loneliness, sickness, hunger and fear.
A donation of just ₹1,000 per month will give one elder in need essential supplies such as rations and toiletries, necessary nutritional supplements like calcium and multivitamins, and anti-diabetic or hypertensive medicines etc. It may also include accommodation expenses for those who require it.
Donate online to support our NGO partners working to provide care for the elderly. Once you donate, we will send you the name and photo of the elder you are supporting so you know exactly who you are making a difference to.
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.