Elderly Abuse In India: “It’s High Time To Speak Up Now For Elderly Rights And Protection”

The National Crime Records Bureau in 2014 reported 18714 incidences of crime against senior citizens and as a whole the rate is 18.3% in India.

by Dr. Santosh K. Yatnatti at The PHIN Newsletter

India is the second most populated country in the world with the population of around 1.3 billion with old people accounting for 104 million. Out of which, 53 million are females and 51 million males. The decreased mortality rates and increased life expectancy have contributed to more percentage of elders compared to previous years. The proportion of elderly moving to urban areas is higher when compared to their rural counterparts, where majority are elderly men. The elderly people suffer more on the account of disability, chronic disease, terminal illness, dementia and depression, accidents, falls, nutritional deficiencies, loneliness, etc. The major reason for elderly isolation and loneliness is migration of younger generation from villages to different cities (urban areas) for economic opportunities. Furthermore, they are subjected to elderly abuse, associated by neglect and isolation, as they depend on their families for emotional and economic support; which is most often neglected by their children.

In olden days, old age was never considered as a problem in Indian scenario, as traditionally joint families existed, where elderly were the head of the families in all decision-making processes ranging from family decisions to financial decisions. Everyone in the society was respecting and supporting the elders as per the cultural and traditional norms. However, due to increase in nuclear families, westernization, urbanization and migration of their kith and kins, the elderly has become an easy prey for victimization and elderly abuse.  The World Health Organization (WHO) 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.” According to WHO, elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

The National Crime Records Bureau in 2014 reported 18714 incidences of crime against senior citizens and as a whole the rate is 18.3% in India. A study done by Agewell India on 2705 respondents revealed that 65.2% of elderly respondents accepted that there is elderly neglect. More than half (54.1%) of the respondents said that older persons suffer elder abuse either in their families or society. One in every fourth elderly admitted that they are being exploited by their family members themselves. Majority of the respondents faced mistreatment due to financial reasons (89.7%) and emotional factors (96.4%). The elderly in urban areas were neglected more than in the rural areas.

In a study done by Punita Govil in 2014, 44% of elderly abused people lived with their only son and daughter-in-law, 25.1% with their son’s family and daughter, 9.9% live with their daughter and son-in-law, 8.9% live in large joint family, 7% live with spouse or alone; while 2.3% live with their son or daughter and for the remaining 2.8% precise assessment could not be done. It is also noticed that 72% of the abused elderly people belong to the age group 60 – 69 years, 25% of them belong to the age group 70 – 79 and only 3% of them are of 80 years or above 80. At the national level, it has been found that 50% of the elders have experienced abuse personally, while 83% of the elders reported that abuse is prevalent in the society. In 2013, the ratio of personal experience of abuse was 23.10%. It depicts that cases of elder abuse have increased rapidly in one year.

A survey conducted by HelpAge India in 2014 found that elderly abuse was more in females (52%) than in males (48%). The main abusers were found to be daughters-in-law, followed by sons and daughters. The reasons for abuse were again similar to the previous study, which are emotional and economic dependence.

Read more at:  The PHIN Newsletter

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