Majority attribute their loneliness to no or little interaction with family, within society: Agewell Foundation

Delhi is ignoring its elderly. More than 80 per cent of older persons in their twilight years complain of feeling “isolated” and experience “loneliness in their present life”. According to a recent study on the status of older persons in and around Delhi, a majority attributed their loneliness to no or little interaction with family members or within society.

The study conducted by Agewell Foundation dwelt on various issues concerning old age to understand the present status of older persons in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

“Delhi-NCR has a total population of over 2 crore and more than 8 per cent of this consists of older persons (above 60). Delhi alone has an elderly population of over 12 lakh,” the study quoted.

Based on interviews with 15,000 seniors, the study concluded that with fast changing socio-economic and demographic scenario, growing nuclear families and fast changing traditional value system, needs of older persons have also changed, and “isolation” has emerged as a red flag.

The most common problems being faced by older persons, the study revealed, are feeling marginalised, little or no access to medicines and healthcare, concern about safety and security of their life and property, no work opportunities, financial problems, restricted mobility and psychological problems on account of loneliness.

“In villages of Delhi and NCR 36 per cent older persons were reported isolated socially as well as emotionally. In rural areas 20.8 per cent older persons were found socially isolated and 19 per cent older persons were emotionally isolated. In urban areas of Delhi and NCR 44 per cent older persons were reported isolated socially as well as emotionally. Here older persons were much affected by emotional isolation (26 per cent) than social isolation (25 per cent),” the study cited.

The impact of this isolation, the study said, is adverse health effects. For instance 43 per cent of the respondents claimed they are depressed.

“Every third older person, facing loneliness in Delhi and NCR, was found in poor health condition because of loneliness and less interaction with people. Almost 36 per cent older persons said that their health has deteriorated further since they were left alone. Due to isolation in old age, 16.2 per cent older persons were found feeling insecure in their lives,” the report said.

Questioning the elderly on their social needs, the study identified respect and appreciation, love, compassion, more family support and interactional opportunities and higher status in family and society on top of their list.

It said “32.3 per cent older persons mentioned lack of love and compassion in their life prominently. After that 27.5 per cent older persons expressed respect and appreciation as their first desire…”

Older persons were also found to be more concerned about their health and raising their voice for more and better medical facilities. “So far as their changing medical needs are concerned, most of them, 32.3 per cent, wanted more medicines for their long old age. They want systematic change, so that their long term health care could be ensured,” the study stated.

A relatively large number expressed their angst against the legal system. The seniors feel the need for more safety and security, rights as senior citizens and special courts for senior citizens. A majority of older persons (56.4 per cent) felt they need more safety and security at this stage.

Nuclear families

The study also found that nuclear or small families were “main factor” responsible for violation of human rights of older persons in Delhi and NCR. About 78.1 per cent of the respondents reportedly living in inhuman conditions were living alone or from small/nuclear families.

Human rights violation of older men is higher in comparison to older women, the study noted. As many as 69 per cent of the respondents said they had to go through critical phase in their life or have to live in abject situations due to their old age.

Further “11.5 per cent of older persons revealed that they are not getting proper food. About 18 per cent complained of not getting proper medicine or healthcare and a majority were found deprived of nursing or care giving.”

The study also noted that “two-thirds complained of not getting due respect or good treatment from family or society and 72.1 per cent said they were discriminated because of their age.”