Plight of Senior Citizens in India
After a lifetime of working, raising families, and contributing to the success of this nation in countless other ways, senior citizens deserve to retire with dignity – Charlie Gonzalez
Our attitude towards senior citizens in India is sad to the point being almost hilarious. It’s amusing on how we stay detached and take a distant view of our seniors as if it’s a phase that we will never reach! We are so consumed in our daily lives that other than vaguely acknowledging them once in a while, we rarely try to emotionally connect. If there is one thing every senior citizen, man or woman, craves for its emotional connect. All they expect from the current generation is a little love and attention and they would gladly and graciously ride into the sunset of their lives.
But then the reality is harsh. Don’t we hear stories almost daily on how an ageing mother, a father and sometimes both have been abandoned by their son or daughter and left to fend for themselves? So what’s ailing our society? What’s making us so hard and materialistic that we tend to ignore the very people who spent sleepless nights when we were ill as children? Remember, how they spent all their earnings and time just to provide us a decent home, the best that they could afford?
Let alone disrespecting and ignoring our elders, downright abuse is very prevalent and happening around us. We just need to open our eyes and see.
The ugly side of truth
So ours is a society of strong family bonds, deep in culture and traditions, high on moral values….? So let’s do a reality check. Did you know that elder abuse is alive and kicking right amongst us?
According to a 2012 HelpAge India study covering 20 cities in India, some very disturbing facts emerged.
- 75% of those who faced abuse lived with family and 69% were owners of the house in which they were living.
- More than half of those abused were facing it for more than 4 years and all these were facing multiple forms of abuse.
- More than 50% of those abused, had faced this situation for more than 5 years. 33% faced it for up to 3 years and less than 1% faced it for more than 6 years.
- 55% of those abused, did not report it to anyone. More that 80% of these did not report the matter to uphold family honor.
- The primary abuser was the son in 56% cases, followed by the Daughter-in-law with 23% cases.
- Most of the abused older persons experienced disrespect, neglect and verbal abuse.
However, in the 2013 HelpAge India Report, the statistics reveal a different pattern:
Nationally, the Daughter-in-law has been reported as a primary perpetrator of abuse (39%) followed closely by the Son (38%). This is a dramatic change over 2012 figures.
- More than one fifth of the elderly 23% reportedly experienced abuse nationally.
- Four fifth of the elderly 83% live with family.
- The most common form of abuse nationally experienced by elderly was Disrespect 79%.
- followed by verbal abuse 76% and neglect 69%, and a disturbing 39% elderly faced beating/slapping.
- About 35% of the elderly abused, reported to be facing it almost daily.
- 16% of elderly reported facing abuse for 6-10 years, while 28% reported facing abuse for 3-5 years and 26% were facing it for 1-2 years.
- 70% of those abused, did not report the matter.
So does any of this sound familiar to you? Is any of this happening in your house? Or are you familiar with someone in your neighborhood who is facing abuse? The reality is that it’s very real and it’s happening right around us but we either choose to ignore or we merely tend to dismiss it as not being OUR problem. But hey, it’s very much YOUR problem because in a few years it’s going to be YOUR turn. So are you ready to face the future or would you like to continue living the ostrich life?
Why have we reached this point?
Rapid urbanization, competitive lifestyle, growing aspiration for more lifestyle products and an insatiable desire to get ahead. All of these are impacting our lives without realizing the social cost. Today, we don’t have the time to spend with our children, thanks to the deadlines of reaching office and then staying back late in the office just to meet another deadline.
So in order to gain a career what do we lose. Relationships. Plain and simple. We lose our relationship with our spouse to begin with, then with our children, followed by any elders living with us and finally the neighbors (who themselves are going through the same cycle). Have you even noticed what you are missing? Does it bother you? Would you like it to change?
See how we have lost all opportunities to hold simple conversations and bond with those in our house. One of the biggest killers of interpersonal relationships is the television. Whatever little time we get from our very hectic schedules we spend watching TV. Whether it’s the news, or a match or one of our daily dose of soap opera. Try keeping the TV and your mobile switched off for a day when you are at home and you will realize how much time you actually have to spend with your children, your spouse, the elders at home and even your neighbors! Ask any of the older generation and they will tell you of how the days spent on weekends used to be slow and lazy.
The problem today is that you don’t have the time since your have to cope with work. The wife is busy trying to cope with work at office or at home. The children are busy at school and later trying to cope up with homework. So where does this leave your parents or grandparents? What do they do? Where do they go? Who do they speak to?
But do you really care? You better because you are next? Before you know it you will be the next senior citizen! It’s the only fact that you can be sure of! Let’s wake up and be more sensitive to the elders around us, be it at home or in the neighborhood or in a public place. Remember, it’s your turn next!