One In Every Four Elderly Parents Experience Abuse From Their Family, Where Are We As A Society Heading To?
Last month, a large number of people expressed their outrage over a video of a woman beating her mother-in-law in Kolkata for plucking flowers without permission. The mother-in-law is an amnesia patient. This extremely disturbing incident was caught on camera by a neighbour and was subsequently posted on social media.
Abuse against elderly parents is not as much of a rare occurrence as perceived to be. There might be cases of abuse happening right in our neighbourhood and we might not be aware of it. It takes a video like this to draw our attention to this absolutely shameful trend wherein we are denying basic dignity to our elderly parents who are dependent on us.
A survey conducted by HelpAge India revealed that out of the 5014 elders approached, across 23 cities, 25% said that they have experienced abuse. The most common form of abuse was reported to be disrespect, followed by verbal abuse and neglect. Son and daughter-in-law turned out to be the primary abusers.
Of the surveyed cities, Mangaluru topped the list of cases of elderly abuse. Other cities like Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Amritsar, Delhi and Kanpur too reported a high incidence of elderly abuse.
One look at the survey report is enough to understand this grave issue. Some of the respondents have given testimonies.
What does the law say?
Under Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, it was made mandatory for the children or heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents through monthly allowance.
Maintenance under this act includes provision for food, clothing, residence and medical treatment. The maximum amount which may be ordered for maintenance as fixed by the Tribunal should not exceed Rs 10,000 per month.
There is also a three months jail term for those who abuse elderly parents. Given the number of cases that go unreported compelled the government to consider increasing the jail term period to six months.
The Logical Indian take
The underlying problem is the generalisation of the elders and their problems. They are neither a homogenous group, nor they face the same issues. Experts at AIIMS Bhubaneswar said that declining moral values is one of the primary reasons. Rapid urbanisation and industrialization have changed the cultural and social norms and elderly parents face a decline in their authority over family matters to such an extent that their mere existence is at times considered superfluous. The Indian government has maintained that the responsibility of taking care of elders lies with their families.
Even government interventions like Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 fail to deter the abuse as a fear of social ridicule prevents most elderly parents from filing cases against their own flesh and blood. There are other provisions like reverse mortgage which aim to provide some cash flow for people above the age of 60 years.
However, the cruelty and apathy towards our own parents is something that can only be addressed by us, individually.