A recent survey, supported by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), across seven Indian states highlights that Maharashtra has maximum cases of abuse against senior citizens. One out of 10 people have reported how they have been ill-treated after they turned 60 years of age. The number of such cases are higher in rural areas. Verbal abuse is the primary form of violence, according to a front page report in this newspaper yesterday.
The statistics pointed to a dismally high number of older persons working out of financial necessity rather than choice, without pension or retirement facilities.
What is most evident is that elderly women are bearing the brunt of indifference by the family, with little attention and verbal abuse. Elderly men and women are made to look after young children and they have little financial independence or, sometimes, even a life to call their own. The breakdown of the family unit, rapid urbanization and space crunch has led to many old persons being literally marginalised within families as if their voice does not count at all.
It is time families even before authorities or help lines change the way they treat elders. They should be given a voice and place in their family in the home and heart. It is time they get a say in all decision making and are considered important, valued members of the family and consequently, society. We are a nation that puts great premium on respect for elders, but all that seems to be solely in words when you consider how older citizens are being increasingly abandoned in cities. Their children consider them a burden. They battle loneliness, depression, mental illness and declining confidence. Let us give them the worth they deserve.
After the family unit come the authorities, who need to provide more facilities for older citizens in public infrastructure. The silver-haired strata of society is important in terms of imparting wisdom, guiding youngsters and over all, bringing a sense of calm and the benefit of experience to a tumultuous, sometimes confused existence. Let’s put that gold right back into old.