They are forgetful but not mad. They are wrinkled but not withered. They are old but not meek but above all they are humans and not a burden.
Only a few days ago, headlines on the front page of a national daily screamed: ‘Family throws granny on garbage heap’.
The accompanying photograph was of the semi-paralyzed 75-year-old woman, left to die on a rubbish heap by her grandsons. The boys had acted under the instructions of their mother – the old lady’s daughter – who had decided that she could no longer take care of her mother.
In September last year, a 37-year-old man beat his father. A son out of sheer desperation raped his old mom.
With an increasing number of cases of abuse and neglect towards senior citizens being reported across the country, Indians can no longer boast of being proponents of traditional family values. Four out of 10 elders are victims of abuse.
Unfortunately, the gradual disintegration of the joint family system and the growing number of working couples has meant that the elderly are left to fend for themselves. Many are left struggling through the last years of their lives, alone and neglected.
About 4.6 percent of older people are victims of physical, sexual or financial abuse, perpetrated mostly by family members and those who are in a duty of care relationship with the victim. Elder abuse, the mistreatment and torture of older people, through a manifestation of the timeless phenomenon of inter-personal violence is prevalent in India.
Still, there is no systematic collection of statistics or prevalence studies, crime records, journalistic reports, social welfare records and small scale studies to provide evidence on existence of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of elders.
This is an extremely sorry state of affairs. We all will grow old sooner or later. Imagine being mistreated, verbally abused, denied proper food, proper medication and care by younger members of family.
Older people are indeed in a very helpless situation with eroding social values system in India. We all must have come across at least one or two cases of elder abuse or mistreatment in our neighborhood.
In the masculine centric society that we are heading to, the acts of work, wealth creation, enjoyment, hedonism, hyperactivity define the culture. Gone are the feminine centric roles of nurture, care, healing, consideration and empathy. If women get into masculine roles of acting as protector and provider, then some men must come down to the roles of nurturer and healer. A society which drives itself at breakneck speed without out occasional maintenance can have severe wear and tears.
With nuclear family further getting reduced to single parent family, Most old people have to head towards the Old Age Homes. In a morally corrupt country like India, there is no guarantee that they will not experience severe abuse in Old Age homes as well. Unfortunately, media is glamorizing this old age home concept.
There are also cases of severe elder abuse where the children force the old and sick elders to give them their savings or write property in their name. Sometimes children even file legal suits on the elderly parents making the frail and sick elders to run around the corridors in courts.
But, the most disturbing phenomenon is the legal abuse of elders by daughter-in-law. Imagine, a police jeep coming in front of the house, arresting the family members as old as ninety years and taking them to prison just because an adulterous daughter-in-law filed a false complaint of harassment against the entire family. Next day, media flashes the news of how an innocent daughter-in-law is harassed by a family of sadists with enough colors in it. In India, police arrests old and sick elders “Without Investigation” if a daughter-in-law or grand-daughter-in-law complains of harassment.
I speak of India because the Indian culture today is fast diminishing it is getting more and more so called modernized. In our culture old is certainly considered as gold it is also considered as a bank of knowledge and experience. But it is now very disheartening to say that today old people are merely a forgotten treasure instead they are considered more of a burden. Who is to be blamed for this our fast paced life or our forgotten values?
It is an extremely unfortunately scenario in India where old people are told to campaign if they are wronged. The old people having passed their prime, being weak and sick can not shout slogans in the streets. They can not hold protest marches. Often, when they approach Human Rights activists or Feminists oriented NGOs, they are shown the door. Even media remains totally silent about elder abuse in households except occasionally reporting murder of lonely elders in urban India.
Many such elders have committed suicide after spending some ten to fifteen days in jail. In some of the cases you will see that in most of the incidents the old people’s children as well as their grand children are involved in causing atrocities to them. It is rightly said that what comes around goes around .Today whatever values that you inculcate in your children, they will mould into that character only. May be in future your children will be the one throwing you out of their house.
So what is the solution for this?
The hands that fed you, the eyes that cried for you when you were hurt, the people who gave you ultimate care and protection in your childhood need your help today. It is said a man when he grows old should be treated like a child.
Your child, your parents, your grand parents – all need your help.
Take those wrinkled hands in yours today and say “I am with you…..I do care”Let us care for those withering flowers and make India a shining example – That is my vision for India !
BY Tazeen who resides in the vibrant city of Mumbai. She is currently pursuing her graduation in mass media with majors in Advertising. She is an ardent lover of life and believes that living in Mumbai has made her accustomed to all the shades a person could experience. She loves to talk 24/7 - talk about any thing under this planet. According to her creativity lies in simplicity and curiosity is the start of knowledge.
Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.