The Unaddressed Concern

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“It brings tears to my eyes when I sit down to write this article. As I just got a call informing me that the uncle who gave me the first byte for this article is no more. Life is indeed unpredictable.

“I was living comfortably in Rourkela and had an active social life. My daughter advised me to sell off my house and relocate to Bhubaneswar so that we would be in close proximity to her. It was difficult on her part to come to Rourkela. We did sell the house and got relocated to Bhubaneswar as she desired. She visited us once after relocating. It has been over two years; she hardly visits us even though we are in the same city. I have a lot of health ailments which confine me to bed and my ageing wife is not strong enough to do anything in emergency. Recently, when my wife had gone to the hospital to get her medicine, I had a fall. There was no one to pick me up. At that moment, we both realised how lonely we were. Life would have been better in old age home perhaps”, said the deceased uncle whose  eyes were filled with pain. May his soul rest in peace.

“I was in control of my life till my husband was earning. Soon after his retirement, we had to sell our house for our son’s higher studies.  Presently, my husband  and I are dependent on my son and daughter in law for our basic needs. My daughter in law orders us to cook, clean clothes or  do the house chores. If we deny, she threatens not to give meals and medicines to us,” says an aged lady with tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Elderly Abuse has become common. One day in my neighborhood, I heard a scream.  It was an old lady screaming in pain whose son had thrown hot boiling water after a tiff over property. Immediate medical attention was given by other family members and she survived. But, the act in fit of anger towards the elderly person was heinous and unpardonable. The old lady never complained about her son.” says a lawyer cum social activist.

(All the names have been withheld on request).

One question echoes in the mind- how could the children commit such acts?

Parents work hard, sacrifice their dreams, crush their interests to provide the best upbringing for their children but when it comes to taking responsibility of retired or aged parents, the world throws an ugly picture on abuse of elders/senior citizen ( 60 and above). We belong to the land of  Shravan Kumar (mythological character) but sadly  with change of time its becoming rare to find one.

Currently, more than half of the present population comprises of youth and we may hope that our country would progress rapidly as the responsibility lies on young shoulders. But, young generation has an added responsibility to take care for the remaining population which comprises of old age people or senior citizens. Now, the alarming question is, are we able to provide dignity of life, care, affection, security and health related facilities which old people or senior citizens require?

“The greying population are a neglected lot. It is the duty of the family, police, government and the society at large to look after their well-being” Adv S. N. Mohanty (aged 70+). A major percentage of elderly people in Odisha have experienced abuse from their own family members, when they needed love, affection and care. According to a recent nationwide survey by Helpage India, abuse of the elderly people in public spaces in Bhubaneswar was alarming as the city topped with 92 per cent of  the senior citizens complaining of maltreatment. At public places especially shops and hospitals, don’t we get to hear often “ Mausa, budha bayasa re mundo chaluni ki?”  “Old man,  have you  lost your mind”,  by youngsters. In a way senior citizens are dissatisfied with  the ill treatment at public places or feel  discriminated.

A survey conducted by HelpAge India in 2017 revealed that more than half (53%) of elderly people across India, believe that they are discriminated because of their age.

As you are aware, respecting elders is deep rooted in our culture, sadly however it seems to be a waning virtue.  With the influx of modern culture, individualistic approach to life, breaking of joint families, compartmentalized houses and so called fast pace life, challenges the very existence of elder people with their physical functional disabilities, economic insecurity, emotional and psychological insecurity gives a picture of neglect and disownment by their own people/children, for whom they have sacrificed their whole life. It is an unaddressed gap yet prime concern for near future.

Many cases of reported and unreported elderly abuse come to light which is a huge matter of concern. For improvisation of mental and physical health of elderly population, it is necessary to give a  serious thought and have practical implementation of steps so as to make them lead a life of dignity, care and security.

To bridge the gap and promote healthy and inclusive environment for elders, two life changing mode can be used such as:

(i) At personal level:

Give them a support system: There are lots of agencies who give elder care support. Get them registered. In Bhubaneswar, Jai Odisha ( Suraksha initative), Orange Cross and Helpage India, provide basic support such as police verification of drivers and servants, police verification for senior citizen certification and support, appointment with doctor or medical facility at home or financial discounts  at different medicine shops, diagnostic labs, hospitals, restaurants etc.

Support from dear ones: The presence of near and dear ones, make a lot of difference to the elders. Working family member must check the possiblity of flexible working hours or work from home option  once in a while to make them feel special and wanted.

For senior citizens, talking acts as a good therapy.  A phone call from family or friends from far or near makes them feel happy and wanted. Besides that assisting them in online payments or prevention from tech based scams makes them feel safe and secure.

Usage of public welfare benefit and  regular doctor visits: One needs to make the senior citizens aware of the various  health services by  the Govt which provides low cost or free checkups for the senior citizens. This reduces the medical cost. Regular visit to the doctor for checkup is a must with all documentation such as details of their medical history, current medication and dosage. For emergency, contact details of the consulting doctor is a must.

Insurance Support: It is vital to invest in insurance for ageing parents. Any kind of health insurance reduces the insecurity factor among the elders or old people.

Diet and exercise: Paying attention to a balanced diet, timely medicine and exercise of aged people in a family is a must. If you accompany them, it gives an opportunity to spend some time together.

Active group: It is very important for Senior citizens to be socially active.One can Enroll them to different clubs/associations  so that they can contribute by sharing and utilize their experiences which can be beneficial to one and all.

(ii) At social level:

Besides intervention of Govt or NGOs help, awareness through varied mediums should be made to sensitize youth and strengthen inter generation bonding. A consciousness has to be developed within the youth to be sympathetic and responsible towards elders and senior citizens through various mediums. If any unwanted situation arises with any senior citizen, youth should voluntarily come forward to take immediate action and redress the problem with the appropriate authorities.

Furthermore, the traditional Indian mindset has to be churned and evolved on the social and psychological acceptance of old age homes. For senior citizens without   ward, we must focus in having excellent old age homes which provide a better environment, basic amenities and security so that they can lead a life of dignity and care in the company of same age group.

The senior citizens are struggling with their physical- emotional burdens and the attitude of people around them. Isn’t it very painful to see that those hands which nurtured us, are begging for little affection, little care and due respect? Isn’t it sufficient to make us ashamed???

If we are able to help them to get rid of the feelings of anxiety, fear, stress and insecurity then they can actually indulge in activities which will help them to retyre in retired life. Everyone has a part to play for the well being of the elderly and we must all ensure that they are valued, respected and become active members of the society.

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 15 June, I hope that this article of Coffee Bytes would serve as a catalyst for awakening the society to remind each one of us to give our elders everything of their share. Can’t we assure our elders and senior citizens for a stress free and secured retired life? It is said ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’ So if we ignore our elders and senior citizens to fulfill their needs today,  then we shouldn’t believe in a lie that we will stay young forever.

AT A GLANCE

What kind of abuse elder or senior citizen face?

The kind of abuses that prevail in the society are (a) verbal abuse by talking uncouthly at home and public places (b) Neglect through isolation/silent treatment/emotional abuse (c) denial of basics/medicines/material abuse (d) physical abuse or beating  (e) financial abuse (f) unwelcome sexual contact.

 What could be the reason behind such abuses?

The prime reasons could be categorized into (a) financial dependence (b) emotional dependence (c) changing family structure and life style with erosion of ethical values (d) Increase desire of acquisition within younger generation (e) lack of effective legal restraints (f) increased longevity and need for care of older persons ( g) physical functional disabilities creating a need for assistance.

 Why do cases against abuser go unreported?

No parents will speak ill about their ward. The cases go unreported mainly on the grounds (a) to maintain confidentiality of family matter (b) lack of awareness of legal provision and ignorance of dealing with the problems (c) lack of knowledge of rights (d) lack of confidence in others and agency to handle the problem (e) lack of social support.

 Who are main abusers?

Elderly people are treated as a burden by family members. The abusers being (a) daughter in law (b) son (c) daughter (d) son in law (e) relative (f) caretaker/servants (g) public/govt. agencies.

 What is the nature of crimes against senior citizens?

Aged and elderly people are easy victims of violence and criminal activities. The nature of crimes being  (a) cheating and fraud (b) robbery (c) murder (d) grievous hurt.

 What are the exisiting Legal help?

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act,2007

Odisha Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2009

 What are the exisiting  Police and Security help?

Section 125 in the Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Order for maintenance of wives, children and parents- If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain)

With a view to providing enhanced safety and security, Senior Citizens Security Cells (SCSC) have been started at District Police Offices and Commissionerate Police, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, Bhubaneswar. The SCSC system now covers all the 20 police stations in Bhubaneswar and 18 in Cuttack.

By Upagupt Mohanty

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