Real India

Abuse of the Elderly

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A survey shows that sons and their wives are the main tormentors of ageing parents

It’s not just the paltry Rs 200 a month provided as government pension that reveals the priority (or lack of it) given to the elderly in India. Nearly two weeks after Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh asked for a review of the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, a recent survey conducted by NGO HelpAge India showed that almost one-third of the elderly in India are being abused, mainly by their own family.

The survey, released on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June, spanned 20 cities. As many as 31 per cent of the 56,000 people interviewed reported experiencing abuse. About 44 per cent respondents identified disrespect as the most common form of abuse, 30 per cent identified neglect as the second most common form, and 26 per cent mentioned verbal abuse.

Sonali Sharma, deputy director of HelpAge India, says India’s elders find themselves unhappy and feel neglected. “Often situations are such when they are over-sensitive or we as children or grandchildren lose patience with them. It may or may not be reasonable, but at the end of the day, the responsibility of making them comfortable lies with us.”

Abuse is reported mostly from family members, with the daughter-in-law and the son emerging as the main perpetrators. Nearly 56 per cent reported abuse from their sons and 23 per cent from their daughters-in-law. This is also because nearly 81 per cent of the elderly population are financially dependent on their sons. About 55 per cent people said remittances from their sons are their only form of income, which is mainly spent on medical bills (85 per cent). While 31 per cent are dependent on someone for their daily routine, more than half are dependent on their daughters-in-law (52 per cent) followed by sons (43 per cent). Delhi reported 100 per cent abuse by daughters-in-law, followed by Hyderabad (89 per cent) and Bhopal (87 per cent).

Sharma said that nearly 41 per cent of the elderly interviewed own property, the highest being in Delhi (76 per cent) and Bhopal (75 per cent). These also happen to be the cities where the elderly feel most abused—Bhopal being the worst of all cities at 77 per cent, followed by Delhi at nearly 29 per cent. Nearly 84 per cent of the elderly reported mental torture in Mumbai.