Octogenarian JS Bhatia had always looked forward to a happy and content retired life with his children. However, his dreams never materialised and he was subjected to abuse, was refused food and finally abandoned by his son and daughter-in-law.
Bhatia, 81, today stays at an old age home.
Unfortunately, Bhatia is not the only one to have suffered abuse. According to statistics, around 20% elders from Delhi and 23% across India have claimed to have had personal experiences of being abused.
The findings were part of the ‘Elder Abuse in India (2013)’ report released by NGO Help Age India on Friday, ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Saturday.
The survey, more than focusing on the number of elders who chose to come out and speak about their trauma, reveals how an astonishing number of such cases goes unreported every year. As against Bhatia, who chose to come out in the open, as many as 70% of the respondents said they were abused but did not report the matter.
"Maintaining confidentially of the family matter" was the major reason behind not reporting abuse (for 33%), followed by "fear of retaliation" (for 39%). Many did not report abuse, as they “did not know how to deal with the problem.”
The most common forms of abuse experienced by the elderly were disrespect (41%), verbal abuse (32%) with a shocking 27% also facing physical abuse, including beating/slapping.
Delhi was part of the 2013 survey that was conducted in 24 cities across 20 states involving 6,548 respondents above 60 years of age. However, Delhi’s statistics were better off when compared to 2012 data. Only 20% elderly respondents said they had personal experience of abuse, down from 30% in 2012.
The son was often the main perpetrator of abuse (34%), followed by daughter-in-law (24 %), the 2013 report said. Last year, the son was the main perpetrator (for 60 % people) followed by the daughter-in-law (24%).
Explaining the statistics, Mathew Cherian, Help Age’s CEO, said: “Some people don’t speak out. Moreover, the sample size was bigger than last year and this year, we had more tier II cities. So the comparative differences in abuse percentage.”
JR Gupta of the Confederation of Senior Citizens Association of Delhi emphasised the need to have a National Commission for Senior Citizens at the central level and state commissions in respective states. Leila Seth, the first women chief justice, called for introspection.
“We (the elders) should look at ourselves and try to find out what the youngsters want. Nobody wants to be bad (and abuse elders).”