Shedding Light on the Often Non-Discussed: Elder Abuse

Not many people know that there are 7 forms of abuse that elders may face.

Elder abuse is a universal social issue which has an effect on the physical and mental health of millions of people, all around the world. Not many people know that there are 7 forms of abuse that elders may face. These include Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Emotional or psychological abuse, Neglect, Abandonment, Financial abuse, and Self-neglect. To raise awareness on the same, the United Nations designated every 15th of June as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). WEAAD aims to make available an opportunity for communities around the world, to endorse a better understanding of the variety of abuse that the elderly people suffer, by raising awareness of the social, cultural, demographic and economic processes affecting them.

Elder Abuse often occurs with bare minimum acknowledgement and response, both in developed and developing countries. It is one of the least investigated types of crime. It is mostly ignored as an excuse of 'private matter of families' in societies. The United Nations reports for the year of 2020 reveal that estimated 10% elderly people have been victims of abuse, although the real numbers and the extent are unknown. In India itself, at least 5% of the senior citizens above the age of 60 stated that they experienced ill-treatment in 2020. This accounts for more than 150 million people!

As older people become physically fragile with age, they often become less capable to take care of themselves, fight for themselves or seek for help against bullying and harassment. This leaves them exposed to unscrupulous people who then take advantage of these elder adults.

Abuse is an extremely delicate subject, and more so when it comes to elders. Very often, those who are brave enough to speak about their situation have nowhere to go, but back to the home of their abusers. This is because of lack of old age homes as well as people's will to avail the facility. People habitually consider sending their old parents or grandparents to old age homes a taboo, because of the misconceptions they hold for the same. It is ironic that in reality, old age homes become a safe sanctuary for neglected elders. In India, where living in a joint family has been the everlasting custom, opting for old-age homes, might sound like an absurd idea to a lot of people due to societal pressure and expectations. Therefore, with millions of cases of domestically abused elderly, India has merely 700 old-age homes! The call of the hour is to spread awareness- not only to help others identify cases of elder abuse but also to share the same information with elders who might unknowingly be undergoing such wicked and sinister forms of abuse.

Though the world seems dark, there is still light. There are various legal safety nets- in 2017, the Delhi High Court passed a ruling stating that abusive adults could be evicted from their parent’s home. The Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2007 has made maintenance a legal obligation. Senior citizens can apply for an allowance from their children, which if not provided is punishable.

Civil societies are doing their bit by including elderly care as one of their focus areas. While some are engaged in community mobilization, others focus on more tangible forms of providing care to the neglected elders. One such civil society has set up an old age shelter that goes by the name of Mann Ka Tilak, located in Delhi. The shelter home provides a safe space and a loving environment to trauma-stricken elders. To give their beneficiaries the love and care they deserve, all amenities at the old age home, are provided completely free of cost. Since 2018, their team has reached out to over 60 neglected elders. While some are successfully rehabilitated with their families, others choose to start a new life at the home.

UN-designated days, like WEAAD, are observed to primarily spread information and mobilize the community and resources to draw attention to pressing concerns, in a hope that this would create a ripple effect to energize society to wipe out elder abuse in the near future. It is equally important on the part of caregivers to educate themselves about care institutions and avail their facilities in need. Everyone deserves to live in safety, with dignity and respect. Our elderly is no exception.

About the author

Khushaal Sharma, Outreach Officer, Wishes and Blessings NGO

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Khushaal Sharma


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