Mumbai: Survey reveals shocking details on treatment of seniors

Feb 08, 2015, 04:12 IST | Shreya Bhandary

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

Recent cases of senior citizens being abandoned or taken advantage of has once again shed light on the status of the older generation in our society. Over time, several studies have been conducted to determine the issues faced by the elderly and to understand the demographic, social and economic conditions as well as the health needs of this strata of the society, but very little about the real picture has been highlighted.

No silver lining: The survey also highlights that many among the elderly work out of necessity and often take up unskilled and low-paying jobs. These jobs offer no pension or retirement facilities, which worsens their plight

A recent survey supported by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has highlighted the status of the elderly in seven different states of the country — Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal — all with a high percentage of population in the age group of 60 years and above compared to the national average. The sample size of each state was fixed at 1,280 and altogether 9,852 elderly were interviewed from rural and urban areas.

According to the stats, work participation rate among the elderly males in the country is as high as 39 per cent while that of women is 11 per cent. Majority of the workers are in the 60-69 age group and the work participation among those above 80 years of age is 13 per cent among men and 3 per cent among women.

Almost 71 per cent of the elderly work due to economical necessity and not by choice. “Since many are working out of necessity, the study highlighted the unskilled and low paid nature of jobs that the elderly are engaged in. Therefore pension or retirement facilities are not available to a large majority so they once again become helpless,” said professor Siva Raju, dean of the School of Development Studies, TISS. He also added that in many cases the elderly women end up taking care of their family while other members are working therefore they have no financial independence.

Women bear the brunt
While family has traditionally been the primary source of support for the elderly, what is shocking is that about one in 10 elderly women live alone. “The study highlights the vast difference in the social as well as economic status of elderly men and women. Most women are also unaware of the various schemes available and end up living on the edge,” added Raju. The findings state that about 80 per cent of the elderly co-reside with their children or other relatives. In addition, about a quarter of all elderly receive money transfers from their non-resident children. Most interviewees added that they prefer living with family or in their own house. Only 0.3 per cent preferred living in old-age homes.

Sadly, one in 10 elderly have reported facing abuse after they turned 60 years of age. Abuse is higher in rural areas compared to the urban areas, with verbal abuse the primary form of violence. “We find out that violence was reported highest amongst the elderly in Maharashtra. However, further investigation showed that this might be because of the vocal nature of elders in the state compared to other states. There is a high need for support groups as well as social awareness in the society for the benefit of elders, which is currently seen only in Maharashtra,” said Raju.

While there are various schemes like the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) and the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme available, a significant number (70 per cent) of the elderly were also aware of the same. "Sadly the utilisation of the same is very low, especially among women. Only 18 per cent elderly belonging to below poverty line are beneficiaries of IGNOAPS. Awareness of the Annapurna scheme is fairly limited (40 per cent) therefore only 3.5 per cent elders have made use of the scheme,” said Raju.

In the end, the study highlights the need for social awareness as well as support groups  to help the elderly live happily.

State cracks the whip

In 2009, Maharashtra joined a list of 15 states in the county for approving the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, which entails imprisonment for those neglecting their parents. Anyone who shows disrespect to or does not care for his or her parents who are above 60 years of age is liable for punishment up to three months of imprisonment or a fine of R5,000 or both. Adopted children will also be liable to the punitive measures for ignoring their parents. The law, passed in 2007, makes it clear that ‘maintenance of parents’ means provision of food, shelter, clothing and medical attendance and treatment and a ‘parent’ means father or mother whether biological, adoptive or step-father or step-mother, whether or not the father or mother is a senior citizen (whose age is 60 or above).

Of the 9,852 people interviewed
>> 71 per cent work due to economic necessity and not by choice and less than 10 per cent of the elderly get
employer’s pension
>> Most of the elders are dependent on others to meet their economic needs
>> majority of the interviewees were also illiterate and from the poor class
>> one in 10 reported being subjected to some form of abuse — verbal, physical, emotional or other — after turning 60
years of age
>> higher levels of advise are reported in rural areas
>> Maharashtra reported maximum cases of abuse of elders while Orissa reported least cases
>> Verbal abuse is the primary form of violence
>> A significant number (70 per cent) of the elderly were aware of Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme and the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme
>> Only 18 per cent have actually utilised the schemes; the awareness is lowest among women
>> Most interviewees added that they prefer living with family or in their own house and only 0.3 per cent preferred loving in
old-age homes

39 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women in the 60-69 age group work to support themselves

139 per cent of men and 3 per cent of women above 80 years of age continue to work

71 per cent of the elderly work due to economical necessity and not by choice across the seven states

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