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Why is the World Insensitive to Elder Abuse?

World’s best societies are those where women and elderly are safe as these two are the most vulnerable groups – always prone to cruelty and injustice. Now, this yardstick is valid only in utopia states as elder abuse is increasing at an alarming rate all over the world with their rising population. These days newspaper headlines are full of crime against the elderly. Physical assaults and tortures mostly by their nearest relatives, are making people afraid of getting older. These brutal acts are so pervasive in the society that sometimes old age people even watch their caring and empathetic attendants with doubts and suspicions. With the agony they are living with is killing every moment and many had succumbed to it. Can anyone believe that in 2016, the total number of  registered cases of elder abuse were 21, 410 as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)? And thousand of unregistered cases from villages/remote area, From these registered cases, it is easy to imagine how grim is their situation in reality. 

Every 1 in 6 older persons is a victim of either physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional abuse. Many are deprived of adequate financial and material support, and a large number is forced to live a neglected life. For their worsening lives, not only people involved directly in abusing them are responsible, but the whole society is an accomplice to them, including the law and order machinery also quit mum. Masses are becoming insensitive to these issues; politicians are least concerned to pay attention to them and police is incapable of trapping perpetrators. Eventually, fearless creatures are getting more confident in exhibiting their cruelty.   

Declining Humanity

In the country of Shravan Kumar where the elderly were as revered as gods, rising crime against the old people should be intolerant to society. India abodes more than 104 million senior citizens, i.e., almost 10 per cent of the total population is above 60-year of age, and by 2026, around 69 million more people will be added to the current tally. These wise-old people who had spent their lives for the betterment of the family and society, now, they are suffering from high morbidity and loneliness. Due to various socio-economic factors, geriatric care has always missed the attention of policymakers. And, except a few NGOs, almost everyone was deaf to their pains and cries. Abandoned by their children, they are forced to live a dark and reclusive life.

Many are locked and chained in attics and those who enjoy freedom have no option than befriending the walls of old age homes. These are the only secure and sacrosanct places for them where they live in the company of people going through similar hardships and they mutually empathise with each other. Though old-age homes offer shelter to abandoned, hapless, and feeble senior citizens, there are still some pain points that affect their lives. For instance, expenses of medical care and financial needs are very challenging to fulfil at this age. Moreover, quality old age homes are restricted to only in big cities of the country and elderly in smaller cities and towns have no access to the better world. 

Potential Causes

Factors responsible for the unnerving growth of elder abuse cases are many, including decaying moral and family values. The drastic change in people’s lifestyle is creating distances between all sorts of relations and the majority is pursuing only those goals which are rewarding them with material benefits and individual comfort. No one wants to talk about the past as they are busy in making their future bright. They perceive aged people as distraction and barrier to their future and wish to make their life more enjoyable with their absence.

On the other hand, many have a soft and kind heart for the elderly, but their hectic job routine doesn’t allow them to spend time with their parents. Although they spend a lot on parental care, dependence on maidservants leaves elderly into lurch and discomfort. The association of domestic help with anti-social elements makethe elderly fall prey to theft, snatching, cheating, physical assaults, and even murder.

Beyond Laws

Governments in the present and past have made many attempts to ensure the safety of elderly people through various laws and schemes, but on the ground level, nothing significant is achieved so far. Although provisions are there in the Constitution of India to safeguard the rights of senior citizens, their enforcement is not feasible as they come under Directive Principles. Their significance is limited only to drafting legislation. Even the much-hyped Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 is lacking adequate substance, and that’s why it failed to make any remarkable change in the financial condition of senior citizens. Now, as the situation is getting more and more deteriorating every new day, it is the high time that the government should come with some highly practical measures. And, along with governments, the influential people in the society should also invest their time and resources for the respectful sustenance of aged people. It’s a time when government make some specific laws on this like that twenty-five percent of total CSR funds of the country for construct of new oldage homes and maintain/ management of the old oldage homes, and a major change in our education system from class one to introduce the moral values of the family and take care of their elders in their  subjects.

By Dr. Vivek Singh, Advocate at the Supreme Court of India

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