— By Raj Narayan
In recent times, India has witnessed widespread angst over the increasing incidence of sexual abuse that is finding it’s way into the mainstream media. And, rightly so! Because imposing one’s power on the powerless is the worst form of oppression that the civilized world has come across in its brief existence.
Amidst this raging storm, another form of abuse has gone on silently for maybe as long – abuse of the elderly. A recent report by Helpage India suggested that elderly abuse is actually more prevalent than it appears. As many as 88% of those surveyed believed that existence is very high with a fourth of these confirming that they’ve been victims.
The most common form of abuse that the survey reported was disrespect (56%), verbal abuse (49%) and neglect (33%). The main abusers in these instances were the sons (57%) (Yes! you read that right) and the daughters-in-law (38%). While these figures may or may not resonate with us depending upon how our minds are mapped, the one piece of data that is quite astounding is this: As many as 82% of elders who faced abuse did not bother to complain or report it.
I am sure this piece of data does resonate with many of us, given that as a nation we often refrain from resisting a situation to trying to adjust to it. If there is garbage thrown in front of our house, we simply hold a handkerchief to our noses and walk past! While garbage may be a community problem, elderly abuse is much more personal and the fact that it does not get reported should raise our hackles, just as sexual abuse has in recent times.
The major reasons for this reticence towards reporting abuse were (a) confidentiality (52%) and lack of knowledge of how to go about it (34%). More than two-thirds of those surveyed agreed that reduced time spent by adult children and grandchildren was a major concern and most blamed an increase in usage of mobile phones and laptops for this dissonance.
Which brings me to the subject of providing care to the elderly in a protocol-driven and cost effective and efficient manner. There are companies operating in this space, but that’s a topic for another blog on another day. Similarly, there is also the question of how we take old age for granted, often forgetting that with advancing age, there is a perception of reduced utility for society. So, how does one prepare for old age? Happy to hear your thoughts.
(The author is a Family Counsellor, NLP Practitioner and Executive Director of Winage™)