Increasing popularity of nuclear families is violating the human rights of senior citizens in India who end up living a lonely life, which in turn has a negative impact on their emotional and physical well being, says a recent study.
There is lack of awareness among older persons about their human rights and they face discrimination due to old age, adds the pan India study conducted by Delhi-based NGO Agewell Foundation, which works for the welfare of the senior citizens.
It is based on a representative sample of 50,000 senior citizens (29000 from rural areas and 21000 from urban areas) spread across 300 districts covering 25 states and Union Territories.
"In today's fast paced life, even basic needs and rights of many of the senior citizens are not addressed. Social marginalisation, loneliness, isolation and even negligence in old age lead to violation of their human rights. Our study aims to assess the ground situation and find ways to address it," says Himanshu Rath, founder, Agewell Foundation.
60.54% older persons interviewed during survey were found living alone or in nuclear families. Interestingly, 22,250 respondents said they would like to live in a joint family but their circumstances do not allow them.
The study reveals that the violation of human rights of older persons is higher in urban areas of the country in comparison to rural areas. 85.9% of the total older persons interviewed had never heard about human rights.
The situation is critical in rural areas, as only 4.81% senior citizens said that they have heard about human rights. The situation is slightly better in urban areas, where 28.04% older persons expressed knowledge about human rights.
More than half (53%) of the total respondents were found to be illiterate, according to the study. 18938 out of 29000 senior citizens in rural areas and 7584 out of 21000 in urban areas were in the category of illiterates.
Discrimination due to old age is one of the most common problems faced by the senior citizens, says the study, as 47.4% said they have experienced it. 52.35% in urban areas and 44.1% in rural areas accepted that due to their age, they were humiliated occasionally or treated disrespectfully.
"Old Age has become hell for us as our daughter-in-law mistreats us. For the sake of happiness of our son and grand-children, we prefer to keep quiet and ignore her misbehavior," says Pankaj Luthra (75) and Nirmla Devi (71) from Munirka in New Delhi.
No proper access to food was expressed as a concern by 12.9% older persons, comprising 3,101 rural elderly and 3,343 urban ones. Lack of access to healthcare, safety of life and property, no work due to old age, depression and mobility restricted by family members were some of the other concerns expressed by the senior citizens.
"My son, daughter-in-law and grand-children keep me locked from outside whenever they go out. Sometimes, even for days, I have to live in conditions like that of a prison. They take all my pension money and scold me when I spend money without their permission," says 81-year-old Dayaram Bhandari from Indore.
According to Rath, there is an urgent need for an inclusive social security program for older persons at grassroot level while utilizing tools like value based education, awareness generation, research and advocacy in order to protect the human rights of senior citizens.