Thursday, January 1, 2015


Concern for the Elder

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed today by the inter-national community. But most of the population of the world is not aware of this day and its importance. More irony is for whom the day is observed; they also do not know that a day is being observed to highlight their concern. Way back in 1968 the question on Ageing was raised in the UN Assembly by the Nation Malta.  The UN General Assembly passed a resolution in 2011 to declare 15th June as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The UN has started many programmes world wide and made it a regular feature of the UN. The UN also established an International Institute of Aging in the year 1988 in Malta through which a series of training and awareness programmes are being organized. Further, there are courses on Gerontology and Geriatrics. Gerontology and Geriatrics are the new disciplines evolved in recent years. The former deals with the social issues of the aged people whereas the later deals with the deceases of the old people. That is why Geriatrics is often known as Medical Gerontology. There are nearly 80 crore old people in the world as on 2012 data and it is predicted that this number will increase to 203 crore in 2050. In India alone more than 10 crore people are in the age group of 60 years and above and this number will increase in three times in 2050. Almost majority of this population is suffering from one or the other kinds of abuse from their own family or the society. The UN defines Elder Abuse as a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse caused intentionally or unintentionally. The abuse may be in the form of minor to major ill-treatments. The ill-treatment may be of different kinds. Avoiding them in taking decisions in the family, ignoring them their very existence, making them to do works which they could not, ignoring their deceases, scolding them for their interference, beating them for one or the other reasons, isolating them from the family, not providing sufficient financial support, giving them a sort of psychological and physical tortures and stress, not providing proper food, clothes and shelter are some of the abuses the older or the aged people suffer from.

There are more cases of abuses than reported. Particularly domestic abuses are not at all reported world wide. They also suffer from societal abuses which make them isolated and put them under pressure and stress and thereby making them depressed psychologically. This depression leads them to extreme steps such as suicidal attempts. Now-a-days the joined family system collapsed and the married couples want to lead an independent life and they leave their parents in the Old Age Homes. Though all the essential facilities are made available at Old Age Homes, it cannot replace familial environment. They feel that they are willfully isolated and lead a miserable life.

In recent years the persons qualified in Gerontology is being engaged by the Old Age Homes to look after the aged people and to counsel them properly so that they could lead a comfortable and depression-free life. Further, the physicians with specialization in Geriatrics also care for the most old age deceases and diagnose,  suggest, prescribe medicines and the way of life to be adopted. Though this sort of measures certainly eases out the depression of the older people but only few are aware of these measures. Nevertheless, the old people adjust themselves and lead a miserable life with increasing abuses by their family. This day is being observed to bring awareness towards abuses against the elders. The family and children must also feel the lapses on their part and irresponsible behaviour towards their old aged parents. Also it is the duty of the society to make their life comfortable and happy. The Governments should also think, plan and introduce such schemes that would help the aged people to lead a self-esteem life without any dependence on their family or children. The Government cannot escape simply by sanctioning old age pension. It should oversee whether the pension reaches the person concerned and utilized for the purpose for which it has been sanctioned. The Government shall draw a plan and implementation procedure for this purpose. Such families who isolate or abuse their old parents and family members should be given training or counseling. Those who abuse their parents or older persons should be punished severely, so that such incidents do not recur. An awareness camps shall be organized often and the mind set of the people is to be changed. The Division of Social Policy Development (DSPD) of the UN works seriously and concretely in this direction to bring the ageing mainstream.

In India, though this phenomenon exists in every State and almost every family with little exception, the matter is not reported properly. This kind of domestic abuse could be seen in many families. However, in ancient days, the aged people led a happy and comfortable life. Because, the system was such that it compelled the person to adopt an institution called Vanaprastha, which was well known as the third Ashrama among the four Ashramas prescribed. In Vanaprastha having attained the old age and having their children grown up, one should leave the home along with his wife or alone, the option was given to the Vanaprastha either he can leave the home alone or with his wife having handed over all responsibilities to their heir. This system was in vogue that maintained the balance between the Grihastha and the Old aged. Vanaprastha Ashrama was adopted willfully by the Grihastha.  Children also felt their responsibility and made available all facilities to their parents. The Vanaprastha also led a simple life with minimum comfort. This was the system followed by the society in ancient days. However, this obsolete system cannot be prescribed as solution for the present day; at least one can adopt some of the features of Vanaprastha such as leading an isolated life without depression, leading the life with minimum comfort and with simplicity. The Gerontologists and Geriatricians do concentrate on these aspects of Vanaprastha Ashrama; it may provide solution to some extent.  At least on this day of International Day of Aged Abuse Awareness, we the present generation should learn to behave with older generation and treat them with honour and dignity that could only reduce this kind of abuse. Unless we change our mind set towards older people nothing is possible. At least we shall make a beginning by understanding the gravity of the issue and make ourselves aware of the problem.


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