IN a case of elder abuse, a court in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, recently asked the children of six elderly couples to vacate their parents’ premises within a month or face arrest. Six elderly couples in Haridwar had filed a plea, accusing their children of abusing and assaulting them. 

The senior citizens were winners in Haridwar, but the fact is that elder abuse cases in India have been increasing every year. According to the latest survey, almost 60% of senior citizens feel that elder abuse is prevalent on a large scale, and 10% have admitted that they have been victims by themselves. In this survey by HelpAge India, 4,399 elder respondents and 2,200 young adult caregivers across 22 Indian cities were surveyed.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

The United Nations marks June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The United Nations defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

According to World Population Prospects: the 2019 Revision, by 2050, one in six people will be over age 65 (16%), up from one in 11 in 2019 (9%). In 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 or above outnumbered children under five globally. India has one of the world’s largest growing populations of elderly people. There are an estimated over 120 million citizens over 60 in India. it is expected to rise to a whopping 240 million by 2050. 

Based on reports from around the world, it is very clear that elder abuse exists in both developing and developed countries. But it continues to be under-reported worldwide. 

Forms of Abuse

Elder abuse can take various forms. 1) Physical abuse: Senior citizens can face violence at the hands of their own children, relatives and even outside the relationships. This could cause injury, impairment and even death.  2) Sexual abuse: We may not consider this a major issue, but senior citizens often cite this as one of the abuses they face. Cases of older women getting raped are reported from time to time in various parts of the world. 3) Financial abuse: Both close relatives and strangers can do damage here. It could be in the form of improper use of elders’ money, duping them off their property and belongings and other ways. 4) Emotional or psychological abuse: Wilful neglect of elders is one of abuse that is ignored. But it has a deep impact on senior citizens. 

Government’s ElderLine

In order to address the problems of senior citizens including elder abuse, the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment last year launched ElderLine, call centres in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and others. Any senior citizen can call on 14567 number and get support from the call centre in cases of elder abuse and other problems.

How we can help 

We can start by checking in on senior citizens in our neighbourhood who may be staying alone, and their family members are away. Emotionally, they may feel stronger. One can also encourage senior citizens who are facing elder abuse of any sort to seek help from the right individuals and organisations.

It is always better to seek the help of the authorities or non-governmental organisations that work for senior citizens’ welfare if we encounter a case of elder abuse. We can do our bit for the unfortunate elderly who are living their twilight years suffering from loneliness, hunger and poor health by helping NGOs who are helping senior citizens. 

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