Half of India's elderly face abuse, as indicated by a new HelpAge India report, an organization that works for senior citizens across the country.
Twice the number of senior citizens in the country reported abuse this year compared to 2013, with Nagpur and Bangalore seeing the maximum cases of elder abuse, according to the freshly released survey on 'Elder Abuse in India 2014' by the national non-governmental organization.
The organization releases data every year around the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day that is observed on 15 June. The survey was conducted across 12 cities, with 100 senior citizens surveyed in each city while a few were interviewed.
There are 100 million senior citizens currently in India. The mean age of the respondents was 67 among men and 66 among women, according to HelpAge India.
Some of the significant findings of the survey are:
- While 23 percent of elders had reported abuse last year, the figure has increased by more than double to reach 50 percent this year.
- More women reported cases of abuse (53 percent) compared to men (48 percent) this year.
- While 85 percent of respondents in Nagpur reported to have been abused, in Bangalore it is 75 percent.
- Verbal abuse, neglect and disrespect are the main forms of abuse that elders in the country face.
- What aids abuse is the poor awareness among senior citizens about redressal mechanisms, with one in five elders stating lack of knowledge. 41 percent of those who reported abuse said that they had not confided about the matter to anyone to protect the family's privacy.
- Awareness of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 has marginally increased from 11 percent to 19 percent this year. However, only 14 percent of the victims are aware of the act, the survey found.
- Data collected by the NGO further shows that daughter-in-law and son were the biggest perpetrators of abuse against the elderly in the family and 77 percent of senior citizens surveyed are still living with their families.
- Economic dependence, both by the abuser on the victim and vice versa, has been identified as a major cause of abuse.
- However, in a positive change, more senior citizens are reporting abuse, with the figure rising from 30 percent last year to 59 percent this year.
- The effective mechanisms perceived by the elderly to deal with Elder Abuse include "increasing economic independence of the abused (30 percent)", "sensitizing children and strengthening inter-generational bonding (21 percent)" and "developing Self-Help-Groups of Older Persons to provide assistance and intervention (14 percent)."
In a press statement, Mathew Cherian, chief executive officer of HelpAge India, said, "Most elders become silent sufferers and don't talk about it as it becomes a matter of family honour for them. Since many live with their abusers, they feel making a complaint will worsen the situation, due to the fear of retaliation. The degeneration of our value system has heightened this problem, as children are turning abusers".