Report on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day reveals in-laws primary abusers

A recent survey shows that in-laws are the primary abusers in case of elderly abuse, among the in-laws, the primary abuser was the son-in-law with 56 per cent of cases, followed by the daughter-in-law with 23 per cent cases and 24 per cent of those abused faced it almost everyday.

The nationwide report on “Elder Abuse Crime in India,” which was released on “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15)” by ‘HelpAge India,' a charity working for the aged, brings out some startling facts about an intensifying social issue of care for the elderly.

The survey shows that abuse was also gendered in nature where elderly women as compared to men faced abuse more in number and those 80 years and above in proportion to the young among the old were victims.

This year's survey with a sharp focus on the role of family was done across 20 cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Patna, Chandigarh, Panaji, Ahmedabad, Shimla, Jammu, Kochi, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Puducherry, Jaipur, Chennai, Dehradun, and Lucknow.

About 5,600 elders were interviewed in the ratio of 280 per location where 5,400 responses were found valid. Thirty one per cent of older persons reported facing abuse, among them 75 per cent lived with their own family and 69 per cent among them surprisingly were owners of the houses in which they were living and were facing abuses.

More than 50 per cent of those abused, had faced this situation for more than 5 years.

Thirty three per cent faced it for up to 3 years and less than 1 per cent faced it for more than 6 years.

Forty four per cent of the elderly abused, identified disrespect as the common form of abuse, followed by neglect in 30 per cent cases and verbal abuse in 26 per cent cases.

Forty five per cent of those abused, reported it. Out of the 55 per cent who did not report it, 80 per cent stated the reason was maintaining family honour which was of foremost importance to them.

Out of those who did report it, 49 per cent said ‘family member' as their first choice to report the matter to, followed by 30 per cent who selected a relative and 21 per cent who preferred a member of extended family. It is interesting to note, that none of the other redressal mechanisms were taken into account.

Police Helplines were known to a majority of those abused (45 per cent) but were never used, probably due to lack of trust or to maintain family honour.

Eleven per cent of older women and six per cent older men did not have any knowledge about the currently available reporting and redress mechanisms.

None of the respondents knew about all the available mechanisms.

For the elderly, the solution to tackle the problem of abuse, also lay within the family, with 62 per cent older persons suggesting the most effective way to tackle elder abuse was sensitization of children and strengthening of intergenerational bonding and 38 per cent stating it to be economic independence.

Delhi NCR witnessed a rise in abuse from last year, with 29.82 per cent elderly stating they faced abuse, as against 12 per cent the year before. Mumbai followed a close second to Delhi NCR with 29.46 per cent. While in Chennai 27.56 per cent elderly faced abuse.

Bhopal ranked the highest in elder abuse with 77.12 per cent elders stating that they faced abuse, followed closely by Guwahati with 60.55 per cent and Lucknow with 52 per cent.

While Jaipur (Rajasthan) reported a miniscule 1.67 per cent cases of elder abuse.

On an overall basis, eastern India had high percentage of elder abuse with Guwahati having 60.55 per cent and Kolkata accounting for 40.93 per cent incidences, the sole exception was Bhubaneswar which had 23.31 per cent cases.

Eighty per cent respondents who observed actual abuse in their surroundings, identified lack of adjustment as the most important reason for elder abuse and 20 per cent identified economic dependence of the abused as the reason for elder abuse.

Recommendations

Based on the findings, HelpAge India has recommended that nationwide programmes be organised in schools and colleges to sensitise children towards ageing and aged.

HelpAge has been working towards this through its Student Action for Value Education (SAVE) Programme which aims to inculcate values of care and respect for the elderly in school going children to create an age friendly society.

Secondly, a robust social security system that not only ensures income security for the elderly, but also gives them opportunities for income generation.

And involvement of society at large in prevention of elder abuse is indispensable.

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