The abuse of elderly people in India has risen drastically, says HelpAge India, a non-governmental organisation which fights isolation, poverty and neglect of the elderly. The NGO, working to secure senior citizens’ rights, has reported that elders here are facing a huge ‘crisis’.
Shooting to a disturbing 50% of elders experiencing abuse, from last year’s 23%, the report findings indicates an unsettling future for India’s elderly. Women seemed to be more vulnerable with 52% women facing abuse as against 48% men.
The HelpAge research report pans 12 cities across 8 states, with a sample size of 1200 elders covering both Metro (Tier I) and Non-Metro (Tier II) cities. It aims to find out the existence of Elder Abuse, the reasons for its occurrence, its extent and what as per elderly were the most effective measures to deal with the problem.
What was most disconcerting, was that the Abuser was a trusted source from within the elders’ family, with the Daughter-in-law (61%) and Son (59%) emerging as the topmost perpetrators. A trend that is continuing from the previous years. Not surprisingly, 77% of those surveyed, live with their families. An unsuspecting entry amongst the top 3 Abusers is now the Daughter as well.
Though the national capital, Delhi, ranked the lowest in Elder Abuse with 22% amongst Tier I cities, it also indicated a marginal increase of the same from 20% last year, showing a slow but disturbing growth. Bangalore ranked the highest at 75% within the Tier I cities surveyed, while in the Tier II cities Kanpur was the lowest (13%) and Nagpur highest at 85%.
Verbal Abuse (41%), Disrespect (33%) and Neglect (29%) were ranked as the most common Types of Abuse experienced by the elderly.
While abuse has gone up, unfortunately still 41% of those abused, did not report the matter to anyone. “Maintaining confidentiality of the family matter” was cited to be the major reason behind not reporting abuse (59%).
The findings were based on a survey conducted in 12 cities across eight States, indicated that 50 per cent of the elderly people surveyed experienced different forms of abuse such as verbal abuse, disrespect, physical abuse and neglect. In 2013, the per cent stood at 23.
In the northeast of India, Guwahati leads the list of cities that are cruel to their older citizens. The report said that Guwahati has one of the highest rates of elders’ abuse among 12 Tier II cities in the country that were part of the survey last year. The elders here faced abuse ‘almost daily’.
“It is a subject often pushed under the carpet. Most elders become silent sufferers and don’t talk about it as it becomes a matter of family honour for them. Since many live with their abusers, making a complaint only worsens matters as per them, due to fear of retaliation. The problem needs to be dealt with at its root. The degeneration of our value system has heightened this problem. Children are turning abusers. There is a dire need to sensitize them, starting young. HelpAge has started a unique HUG campaign which stands for Help Unite Generations, aiming to do just that” – says Mathew Cherian, Chief Executive Officer, HelpAge NGO India.
“Almost 71 per cent of elderly people have faced abuse on a daily basis in Guwahati . Another 21 per cent reported to have faced it weekly and only six per cent on a monthly basis in 2014,” the report said.
It said that the city had even outplayed the national average in the category. On a national basis, of the elderly who faced abuse, 35 per cent said they were abused at least ‘once a week’, 20 per cent have faced abuse ‘once a month’ and only 17 per cent said they were abused daily last year.
What came as another shocking finding was that the elderly were usually abuse acts by their own children.
“Among the perpetrators, around 74 per cent were reported to be the sons in the family. Besides, the daughters-in-law were also active in abusing the elders. Some 62 per cent of the daughters-in-law were involved in such abusive acts,” an official of the NGO said referring to Guwahati.
Most of them, some 68 per cent of this abuse, was ‘verbal’.
Like the rest of the world, Guwahati observes ‘World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’ on Monday. The United Nations has designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.