The ugly truth about old age in India

Sixty-eight-year-old Lakhan Singh fondly remembers the days when he was in “service”. The best thing about those days, he feels, was that he “was in control of his own life”.

These days he sells plastic goods by the roadside and lives in miserable conditions to make ends meet for his wife and him. He is forced to hand over his entire pension to his grandson, who threatens to stop his diabetic wife’s treatment.

After retiring from formal employment, scores of the country’s elderly people are forced to live a life of humiliation, abuses and isolation. In such a scenario, one is compelled to think about the living conditions of the aged from the economically weaker sections.


According to a latest study conducted by Agewell Foundation, 65 per cent of old people are poor with no source of known income. Good news is that 35 per cent still have money, properties, savings, investments, inheritance and above all supportive children. However, put up against facts like India has a population of 100 million old people and that the number will touch 324 million by 2050, the good news fizzles out.

What is more important is that irrespective of their financial status, most old people face abuse in one form or the other, states the report, released to commemorate the United Nations’ World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is observed on June 15.

Lack of awareness

“The study reveals that due to lack of awareness about their rights in old age, many people are compelled to live in inhuman conditions. With significant increase in the elderly population, it has been noticed by volunteers that elder abuse has become rampant and that a majority of older people have resigned to their circumstances for sake of well-being of their loved ones and their own peace of mind,” said Himanshu Rath, founder-chairperson of Agewell foundation.

The NGO has been granted Special Consultative Status for old-age welfare in the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council.

Gender discrimination

The study, which had a sample size of 3,400 spread across 323 districts across the country, also stated that older women are more prone to suffer abuse due to factors like gender discrimination, longer life span than older men, longer span of widowhood and no source of income as traditionally most of them are housewives.

Various factors

“Other factors include comparatively high illiteracy among elderly women, lack of awareness about their rights, social norms and, above all, their higher level of patience and tolerance. Therefore, most elderly women remain within the four walls of their homes and majority of them are abused by their own family members,” added Mr. Rath.

Like him, other activists who have been working on the issue, opine that the government must create awareness about the rights of the elderly.

“Advocacy of old age issues at all levels of governance and most importantly implementation of policies pertaining to protection of interests of older persons should be ensured,” said C.M. Sharma, an activist for old-age rights.

But more than the government, it ultimately comes down to the loved ones of the aged who are truly responsible for keeping them happy and healthy.

Respect and care

“One must maintain close ties with ageing relatives and friends. Keep abreast of changes in their health and ability to live independently. Discuss an older relative’s wishes regarding healthcare, in the case of incapacitation and disposition of his/her personal assets. Sensitise children about the needs of old age and let them interact with old people as much as possible,” said Mr. Rath.

It just takes giving some respect and care to the elderly to make their day.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 11:28:27 PM |

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