The traditional family system has eroded in India where taking care of the aged has become more of a burden than a duty. Rapid development coupled with career pressures and consumerism and increased life expectancy has led to a spurt in the cases of elderly abuse and neglect.
According to a report, 23% of the elderly in India reported abuse — be it disrespect, verbal abuse, neglect and in many cases, physical abuse.
“Many people simple say, ‘galti se haath uth gaya (they raised their hand by mistake) and make light of the matter,” said Sonali Sharma, director, communications, HelpAge India.
The report states that 70% senior citizens did not report abuse, citing reasons such as maintaining confidentiality of the family matter or fear of retaliation.
“If there is no support, you have to come back and stay with the same family. What option does an elderly person have?”added Sharma. As many as 80% of the elderly, surveyed in the report “Elder Abuse in India, 2013”, stay with their families.
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, makes abandoning or abusing an elderly person under someone’s care punishable with jail.
Despite 14 states having taken the necessary steps to implement the act, under-reporting remains a big stumbling block.
The solution, according to Sharma, lies in raising awareness, sensitising and inculcating values among the youth and financial independence.