Any action that causes harm in any way to the older adults falls under the category of elder abuse. It could be of any type – physical, emotional, verbal, material, sexual and neglect. If any of these is done intentionally, it is classified as abuse. According to a 2018 report published by HelpAge India, 82% of the elderly abused, never report it. 

Types of Indian Elderly Abuse

Elderly abuse is classified into three broad categories:

  • Neglect, including isolation, abandonment, and exclusion from society
  • Violation of human, medical and legal rights
  • Disallowing choices, decisions, finances, respect, and status

Physical abuse of the elderly means any action that afflicts pain or trauma in an older person.

Sexual abuse means conducting a sexual act with an elder without their consent.

Emotional abuse means inducing fear in an elder, or any action that causes lowering of self-esteem, or punishment or control over an older person.

Financial abuse is withholding finances from older adults, and not allowing them to take decisions related to their property or assets.

What do the facts say about elderly abuse in India?

8.6% adults in India are over the age of 60, according to the Census of 2011. That comes to around 114 million people who fall in the senior citizen category. Older adults are typically more prone to such abuse as they lack the strength and support to counter them.  A number of cases of abuse have been reported through the media. However, many such cases of abuse, especially emotional and financial abuse, are left unreported and are thus ignored by the common man. Disrespect and neglect are also often overlooked, even by those who come in contact with these older adults regularly. The situation of the victim worsens when the abuser is someone very close to them, even relatives in some cases.

As India is a developing country, younger adults are on pursuits of their own to earn an income for their family. Meanwhile, an elderly is usually expected to survive on pension funds and life savings, in some cases. In a lot of cases, the elderly are subjected to a number of crimes. These crimes may be physical (murder or attempt to murder, kidnapping, beating etc.), financial (robbery, burglary etc.), and emotional (cheating, breach of trust etc.)

The most common abuses that older adults face are robberies, molestations and neglect. As per a HelpAge India report, 52% of older females report a higher level of abuse including rape and physical torture, while 48% of older males face different types of abuse, including physical. There are reports of older females being abused for even trivial issues like watching television at home, going out at will or going to a relative’s place or a religious place. These statistics prove that older adults in India are certainly vulnerable to abuse. In fact, the prevalence of elder abuse is nearly 32.5% from relatives, 21% from friends and 20% from neighbors.

Many victims are abused by their near ones, like son, daughter or daughter-in-law. Some are also abused by their siblings, in-laws, nephews/nieces or even their primary caregiver or servant, in case of total dependence on these people. A whopping 72% of the older adult population is abused using abusive language and rude talks, while neglect, isolation and emotional abuse form 43.1% of abuse. Abuse over property is also a major cause of worry, as more than 50% of elderly have to go through tensions for issues regarding property or inheritance.

Most of these victims do not report these crimes for fear of bringing their family problems into the limelight and drawing social or familial rejection, further violence or torture, harassment by police without the surety of getting help. Many older adults do not even think of complaining about the abuse.

Also Read: Hiring a Caregiver for Your Parents: What to Look For?

The Final Outcome

As longevity is increasing with each generation, we might end up with the larger portion of the population being in the older adult group. Different laws for the protection of rights of senior citizens, along with NGOs working for the betterment of the living conditions of older adults and more awareness about health and financial issues can lead to a significant reduction in abuse rates against the elderly in India and make their home a happy and safe place to live in.

For any cases of abuse on the elderly dial the Senior Citizen Helpline: 1091

Also Read: Emergency Numbers for Seniors in India

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