Ours is a unique country where it is a sin to be elderly and alone. In no other country of the world, is there as much threat to the elderly as in ours. And we boast that we have inherited a great culture of humanism and compassion. Killing the elderly is more rampant in the metro cities than in smaller towns or villages. It is a form of organized crime that the police have not been able to crack.
In old age generally, one is haunted by insecurity, depression, helplessness and loneliness. Many of those who have lived a fruitful life become insecure and helpless due to a variety of reasons. It may be due to being neglected by their children, perhaps due to the latter’s own occupational needs when they have to live far away from their parents.
In the past, the joint family system provided a dependable cushion for senior members of the family. They were considered as a treasure and a guiding spirit for their experience and knowledge about religion, family history, values and traditional mores. But with the decline of the joint family system in Indian society, senior citizens have become vulnerable and have had to bear the brunt of decaying cultural and societal values.
Globalization has led to the emergence of nuclear families, where due to occupational needs and professional compulsions, young people have to leave their old parents and settle down in faraway places. Many a time, the elderly decline to live with their children in other cities or countries as they are attached to their hearth and home. Loneliness often leads to depression and helplessness. More seriously, old people living alone are highly vulnerable to violent crimes. Senior citizens staying alone are easy victims of criminals, with an eye on their property. The safety and security of senior citizens, especially of those who stay alone, should be a priority for civil society and the government. Community policing can reduce the fear of crime among the elderly.
The police should implement neighbourhood vigil programmes through community policing. The police patrolling should be intensified in areas prone to crime. The police with the help of volunteers should identify those areas and colonies where there is higher concentration of the retired and elderly. Regular vigil should be organised in the market place, public parks and neighbourhood areas adjoining these colonies. The elderly themselves must be made aware of possible threats to them so that they take cautionary measures.
When police engage in community partnerships, it enhances the level of police presence among the elderly, thus reducing the fear among the old. As the police becomes more actively involved with the elderly, the latter will acquire a sense of security. It is believed that if the elderly are satisfied with the police, they will have less fear of crime. When the police gets involved with the security of the elderly through neighborhood vigilance programmes, these groups and programmes strengthen the bonding between the police and the elderly and the fear of crime will also lessen.
Apart from the implementation of community policing, senior citizens’ cells should be established by the police in every district headquarters. There should be a helpline for the elderly so that they can register their problems. The police must be more focused on security of life and property of the elderly who are living alone. Effective patrolling should be conducted by the police both during the day and night to rein in undesirable elements, who loiter in parks, the neighbourhood and the marketplace. The police ought to be trained and sensitised to the needs of the elderly. The police should punish those family members, who abuse and neglect the elderly. Crime data relating to the old must be regularly prepared and updated. The old must be befriended in course of the vigil.
The police in collaboration with the voluntary sector and the network of elderly persons can make videos on the needs and rights of the old as well as on the redressal mechanism and safety measures available to them. And the feedback should be aired through television channels.