Flipping through the news channels or the leading dailies one comes across numerous incidents of elder abuse. Old and infirm parents, grandparents are mistreated, neglected and tortured, sometimes even killed. Such chilling incidents seem to be on the rise nowadays.
The United Nations has designated June 15 as World elder abuse awareness day (WEAAD). This day aims to focus attention to issues of physical, emotional and financial exploitation of elders which is one of the biggest issues facing seniors across the world. As the demographics of the world change toward the senior population of world taking over that of the younger generation in many nations, this issue merits serious consideration and the development of elder friendly policies worldwide.
In India elder abuse was not much of a concern earlier because of the joint family system where elders were respected, taken great care of and a support system existed. However with nuclear families, changing value systems and a host of other factors, elder neglect has begun to rear its ugly head.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report on elder abuse in India listed the main causes of concern reported by elders as
- Generation gap and change in lifestyle leading to uncooperative behavior on the part of the younger generation
- Marginalization, isolation, being perceived as a burden
- Lack of time and emotional support from the younger generation
- Under utilization of skills and lack of resources to spend quality time
- Disregard of medical health issues on various pretexts
- Daughters in law not co-operative and caring
- Financial dependence leading to scope for humiliation and ill-treatment
- Economic exploitation on the hands of children who wanted their part in the property
- Disrespect and lack of dignified living
- Westernization of society and changing value system
Common types of elder mistreatment include neglect, financial abuse/ exploitation, physiological/emotional abuse and physical abuse.
When we talk of elder neglect, we must be able to recognize the signs that include lack of basic amenities, hygiene, unkempt homes or rooms that lack in facilities. Dementia is a very common affliction that results in rapid decline and requires great patient care and supervision. Elders if left in the care of caregivers and not properly looked after with regular supervision and monitoring can be subject to many forms of neglect.
As age advances the requirement of love, support and time increases manifold. Our elders who used to hold our hands for everything and be our rocks of support need our complete attention and great care. If in such circumstances we shy away from our duties, pretending to look the other way or giving the excuse of not having enough time, then it is the greatest wrong doing on our part.
We must realize that life comes a full circle and we too will age. What will happen to us then? If elders are neglected in front of children then what sort of values are we inculcating in the future generations? Don’t you think they will learn from your actions and when your time comes you will be subject to the same neglect since that’s what they saw as legitimate while growing up!
There are numerous instances where you will see people posting happy pictures with their elderly on Facebook but the reality is far from the truth. Children and grandchildren living in the same house will not bother to stir out of their individual rooms and the elderly are left to the mercy of caregivers or sometimes even unattended. This is really the worst sort of abuse since when we children our parents were with us like our shadows and when they are past their prime if we leave them deprived of our love and care then we have failed in basic humanity and our duties as children and have subjected them to the worst sort of crime.
The media is filled with numerous cases of children torturing their parents and grandparents in their sunset years when elders most need our care and adoration. If in their sunset years they are subjected them to emotional, physical abuse or financial exploitation, their all taken from no matter what the provocation or circumstances then in my eyes this act of atrocity is beyond redemption.
The fact that the perpetrators are more often than not the people whom they trust the most is really the greatest cause of concern.
This short poem talks about our duties as a younger generation toward the elderly. Let us take a pledge to nurture, care and respect our elders and leave no stones un-turned to do the best for them with whatever means we have.
Our elders should be protected
Revered and respected
They made countless sacrifices
Selflessly all throughout their lives
For families, children and grandchildren
Now it’s our turn to brighten
Their sunset years
Where days should be treasured
Filled with laughter
A love infused atmosphere
Secure and serene
It’s our duty to nurture their years green
Poem © Vyomi Malik