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Elderly abuse in India

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“Elder abuse can be defined as a single, or persistent act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within families or relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm to an older person””. Elder abuse can take various forms such as financial, physical, psychological and sexual. It can also be the result of voluntarily or involuntarily neglect” (WHO).

India has some 71 million people aged 65 or over, two-thirds of whom live at or just above the poverty line. As in many developing countries, retired public service workers form most members of the minority with reasonable pension entitlements. Up to 90 per cent of the workforce has no pension coverage, or only tightly means tested coverage that has the character of a benefit of last resort. State Government and union territories have developed their own schemes for old age pension and the criterion of eligibility and the amount of pension allocation vary among these states. The percentage of older people who benefit from the old age pension scheme varies across states, from 0.3 per cent to 68 percent.

The National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) was developed in the 1990s with a focus on the destitute. The national budget allocation for the NOAPS amounts to 0.6 percent as compared to 6 percent of central government revenue expended on pensions for its employees. In 1999, the central government started another social security programme called ‘Annapurna Programme’ for older people living in destitution. Under the programme, all older persons who are eligible for the NOAPS are given 10 kg rice/wheat monthly, free of cost: the number of beneficiaries is estimated to be 6.6 million. A national project titled OASIS (Old Age Social & Income Security, India) was commissioned as a result of growing concern for old age social and income security, in particular for the 330 million workers in the unorganised sector (including farmers, shopkeepers, professional, contract labourers, etc.). According to this project, every young worker can build up enough savings during his or her working life to serve as a shield against poverty in old age. The need for this arose because of lack of adequate instruments to enable workers in the unorganised sector to provide for their future old age. Old age poverty is more prevalent among older women than among older men. In most countries pensions are calculated on the basis of a salary and years worked, both tend to be lower for women than for men as a result of gendered division of paid and unpaid labour (Evandrou and Glaser 2003). As women live longer than men and spend longer periods living alone in old age than men, they are more affected than men by the extra expenses that arise from run-down housing, lack of support from a spouse, increased health related expenses ad the lack of economies of scale in one-person households.

Aging brings about a number of physiological changes. It not only affects a persons looks, but also becomes a cause of physical deterioration. The way a person ages depends upon gender, socio-economic determinants, physical environment, personal and behavioural factors and availability of health and social services. With improving health care, our average life expectancy has gone up from 57 years in 1990 to 65 years today. In the next 20 years, India will be the home to the world’s second largest population of the elderly people. This is a greatest challenge for both children and the elders. Industrialization, urbanisation, education and exposure to western lifestyles are bringing changes in social values and lifestyle thereby weakening the family ties. India’s senior citizens feel vulnerable, lonely or abandoned. They may have lost a spouse or their children would have gone abroad or in cases of abuse, they have been sent out of homes. Elder abuse tends to take place where the senior lives: most often in the home where abusers are often adult children, other family members such as grandchildren, or spouses/partners of elders. Elder abuse can also occur in institutional settings, especially long-term care facilities. It seems that the elderly are considered as the vulnerable group in the society because of their weakness and decrease in capabilities. Elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences. Elder abuse is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations. According to census 2011 life expectancy at birth increased about 65.77 years for males and 67.95 years for females. On one side elderly population has increased, but on the other side society based support system has weakened.

Based on evidence, WHO reveals that 60 years and older are subjected to abuse i.e.,15.7% of people. These prevalence rates are likely to be underestimates as many cases of elder abuse are not reported. Globally the numbers of people affected are predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations. Elder abuse has serious consequences for individuals and society including serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences, increased risk of nursing home placement, use of emergency services, hospitalization and death.

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