The Senior Citizens Service Council conducted a panel discussion at the KPOG Hall, Oottukuzhy, on Friday as part of the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day observance.

A range of issues affecting the elders in the State were brought up and possible solutions were suggested by panel members Ananthakrishnan, president of the council; James Vadakancherry, criminologist; and Praveen G. Pai, geriatrician, Medical College Hospital. From exploitation in the name of insurance and pension schemes to unnecessary and expensive treatment in hospitals, Mr. Vadakancherry said that these less obvious forms of abuse posed a serious problem for many elders as “most of them do not have anyone to guide and tell them what to do, what not to do, what they have lost and what they own.”

Laws needed

He noted that the elders constituted a group that needed a strong framework of laws to protect them from various forms of harassment.

Dr. Pai recommended that a document that would detail the list of cases of abuse faced by elders needed to be prepared.

“Complaints and suggestions as well need to be included in this document, which can be circulated among the media and government officials,” he said.

The need for an active effort to ensure that the elderly is protected and attained certain benefits was emphasised during the discussions.

Dr. Pai concluded that changes could be brought about only gradually. “Structural changes are necessary and this will take probably two generations to establish,” he said.

Many suggested that educational institutions needed to include awareness classes on the abuse faced by the elderly and to inculcate among students a mentality to help the elderly.

In the health sector as well, age-friendly policies had been largely neglected, he said, adding that it applied to other spheres as well, “including the media which, apart from a few scattered reports, hardly mention the problems faced by the elderly.”

Dr. Pai suggested that there needed an Elder Abuse Prevention mechanism and day-care centres from the panchayat level.

Council president Ananthakrishanan said: “I have spent more than Rs.1 lakh on postage over the last three years, but all the memoranda and proposals we have put forward to the government have been ignored.”