Abused elders suffer in silence

NEW DELHI: The video of a 60-year-old woman beating up her 85-year-old mother, which went viral on social media, corroborates the findings of a survey carried out by Helpage India that one in five elders experiences some kind of abuse at home. The study also found that 98% of the abuse victims do not file a complaint despite the existence of a specific law to protect them.
On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, NGOs have urged more people to come out and report the problem. Often the biggest offenders are sons, daughters and daughter-in-laws, and in 53.2% cases, there are property and inheritance disputes involved according to the study. Helpage India receives close to 150 calls about such abuses every month in Delhi.
According to Geetika Sengupta, who handles Helpage India’s helpline, most calls concern property and money. “Neighbours or well-wishers usually call us and inform about the abuse,” she said. “Some elders don’t call themselves for the fear of a backlash, while others don’t want to make the issue a public affair. We have seen cases of daughters abusing their mothers going up in the last couple of years.”
Most elders suffer in silence and only cases like this video brings reality comes out in the open, said Mathew Cherian, CEO, Helpage India. He added that elders’ abuse was more common than most people thought.

 Reports of abuse do not generally come from within the family. “Family members don’t want to report instances, even for guidance or counselling,” said Cherian.
 Seniors being abandoned by their families is fairly common too. Out of the 150 calls Helpage receives each month, around six are about the elderly found homeless on the streets. “People come across lost and confused senior citizens and call to tell us,” said Sengupta. “We temporarily lodge them in an old-age home while we try and trace their family.”
 While there is the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 to protect the elderly against abuse, Himanshu Rath, founder of the Agewell Foundation, said not many are aware of the law or the rights bestowed by it. “Since the Act was formulated, very few cases have been reported under its purview,” admitted Rath. Agewell has observed that it is often the grandchildren who inform the authorities about such abuse.
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