On the UN World Elder Abuse Awareness Day that falls on 15 June, it has been found that still 25-30% of senior citizens are facing abuse, mistreatment and even torture.
In a survey conducted as “Elder Abuse of Older Persons in India”, it has revealed that a huge percentage of fearing retribution, isolation and neglect from family members goes unreported.
The study said only about 5 per cent of the older people who were facing abuse, mistreatment or torture actually went ahead and complained to the police or any other authorities. “The reasons for the elderly not coming out and complaining are many,” said Himanshu Rath of Agewell Foundation. “One of the most common reasons is the old person&’s fear of losing family members or support. He/she fears that reporting the crime will result in tension and stress in old age, as the abuser may discontinue relations once accused, charged, or convicted," said Rath.
As for the psychological aspect of it all, Rath said, "people hate loneliness, alienation and marginalization in old age. That&’s why they prefer to keep mum and keep suffering abuse and mistreatment.” The study also assessed the reasons for non-reporting of abuse of the elderly. It was revealed that there was lack of awareness about the issue even among older people and society. “Inherent traditional family values, non-implementation of policies on protection of human rights of older persons and availability of fewer opportunities for social interaction to the older persons were major factors responsible for non-reporting of cases of elder abuse or violation of their human rights.”
Saraswati Gupta (name changed), a 67- year-old widow, who relies on her daughterin-law and grandchildren to provide meals and medicines to her, finds it difficult to complain when her daughter-in-law orders her to wash clothes and utensils of the entire family. “She puts up with this harassment for fear of being denied the meals and medicines by the family members if she complained about it. But emboldened by their inhibitions, her grand-children too have now started using threats of violence to keep her in line. She is often kept locked inside the house, when she is alone at home".
The case of Bhushan Prajapati (name changed), a 75-year-old retired person, is no less tragic. He is compelled to hand over his entire pension to his son, who threatens to stop the treatment of his mother, a diabetic patient, if he refused to part with the money. To meet his ailing wife&’s and his own daily needs, Bhushan sells vegetable by the roadside. Despite being economically independent, he puts up with his son&’s demeanor as he does not want to lose out on his physical and emotional support.