95% cases of Elder Abuse remain unreported in India

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day                     
 15th June, 2011

Majority of older persons rely completely on their family members or other relatives to help them. Whether it is for physical or emotional needs, as people grow older they tend to need more and more help from others. Even old people living alone also need help from their relatives/neighbors/friends/caregivers. This dependence on family members / relatives and care-givers makes an older person more vulnerable to abuse.

Elder abuse, the mistreatment and torture of older people, a manifestation of the timeless phenomenon of inter-personal violence is prevalent in Indian families too. This is an extremely sorry state of affairs. Imagine, being mistreated, verbally abused, and denied proper food, proper medication and care by younger members of family. Older people are indeed in a very helpless situation with eroding social value system in India.

It was found that 25-30% of older persons in our country are suffering abuse, mistreatment and even torture in Old Age. According to the study conducted by Agewell Foundation on “Human Rights of Older Persons in India”, only 5% older people who were facing elder abuse, mistreatment or torture reported their complaint with the Police or any other authorities. 95% of incidents of elder abuse are not reported to authorities due to various reasons. One of the most common reasons is the old person’s fear of losing family members or support. He/she fears that reporting the crime will result in tension and stress in old age, as the abuser may discontinue relations once accused, charged, or convicted. People hate loneliness, alienation and marginalization in old age. That’s why they prefer to keep mum and keep suffering abuse and mistreatment.

When assessed it was found that lack of awareness about Elder Abuse amongst older people and society, inherent traditional family values, non-implementation of policies on protection of Human Rights of older persons, less social interactional opportunities available for older persons were major responsible factors for non-reporting of cases of Elder Abuse or Violation of Human Rights.

Sharda Devi, 67-year-old widow relying on her daughter-in-law & grand-children to provide meals & medicines finds it difficult to complain when her daughter-in-law ordered her to wash clothes and utensils of other family members. She may be threatened with denial of meal & medicines on time from her family members if she complains. Her grand-children use threats of violence to keep her in line and often keep her locked inside house, when she is alone at home.

Parasuram Chaube, a 75-year-old retired person has to hand over his entire pension to his son. His son threatens to stop treatment of his mother, a diabetic patient, if he denies giving money. To meet his and ailing wife’s daily needs he sells vegetable at roadside and live in miserable conditions.

Like Parasuram and his wife, only due to lack of awareness about Elder Abuse and their rights as older persons, many people are compelled to live in inhuman conditions. Avoidance from Elder Abuse can only occur if there is awareness among older persons, family members, caregivers in particular and in society in general.

How to prevent older persons from Abuse/ Mistreatment

Tips for older people
  •          Stay sociable as you age; maintain and increase your network of friends and acquaintances.
  •          Keep in contact with old friends and neighbors if you move in with a relative or change to a new address.
  •          Ask friends to visit you at home; even a brief visit insures observation of your well-being.
  •          Accept new opportunities for activities. They can bring new friends.
  •          Participate in community activities as long as you are able.
  •          Avoid interference in the lives of younger family members.
  •          Do not complain or instruct unnecessarily.
  •          Don't sign a document unless someone you trust has reviewed it.

Tips for Families
  •         Be respectful and caring towards old people.
  •         Maintain close ties with aging relatives and friends. Keep abreast of changes in their health and ability to live independently.
  •      Discuss an older relative's wishes regarding health care, in the case of incapacitation and disposition of his/her personal assets.
  •          Find sources of help and use them.
  •          Sensitize children about needs of old age and let them interact with old people as much as possible.

For Society/Government
  • Create awareness about Rights of Older persons
  •   Implementation of policies pertaining to protection of interests of older persons
  •  Advocacy of old age issues at all level of governance 

Contact Agewell Foundation for any guidance or support. Ph.: 011-29836486/29840484, email:agewellfoundation@gmail.com Website: www.agewellfoundation.org

Never forget, one day you too would be old.

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