It's a case that Lidwin Lobo, Coordinator of Senior Citizens' Helpline in Mangaluru remembers vividly.
A daughter-in-law used to starve her father in law, a paralytic man, so that he does not soil himself. "Food was served and kept in front of the man who could hardly move. The daughter-in-law justified her act by saying, if he is hungry he will eat. However, the man unable to feed himself simply starved, until our volunteers knew about the matter and fed him," Lidwin says.
Lidwin is surprised that Mangaluru tops among cities facing elderly abuse, with 47% of 218 interviewees responding affirmatively on being asked if they experienced abuse at home. But she says that similar to other cities, the cases of senior citizen abuse takes place in Mangalore. Among other south Indian cities, HelpAge India recorded 27% of such abuses in Chennai, Bengaluru 26%, Hyderabad 24%, Madurai 22%, Kochi 15% and Vizag 13%.
In the study commissioned by HelpAge India, altogether 5,014 respondents across 23 cities were interviewed. The study took into account various parameters like being disrespected, slapping, verbal abuse, economic exploitation, unwanted sexual contact and neglect.
Among these, 76% of elders reported being disrespected, 22% reported slapping, 4% faced verbal abuse, 22% economic exploitation and majority 51% of the respondents complained about being neglected.
Quoting a 63-year-old elderly person in Mangaluru, the report states that elders face abuse mostly as the children are alcoholics and unable to meet the expenses of their parents.
"Children forcibly become the decision making authority of the household which further depicts older people as frail, weak and dependantsâ€ť, a victim of abuse said. Many of them either didn't know how to deal with the problem or remained silent and bore the wrong-doing on themselves to uphold the family's reputation. Elders above 75 years also alleged that that their personal habits like sanitation, coughing, smoking etc. are not liked by their kin.
While about 47% of respondents in Mangaluru have reported sons as the major perpetrators of violence against them, even the national average under the study shows 52% sons as the persons responsible for abuse. Conversely, the national average shows abuse by daughters-in-law to be 34%, spouses at 14%.
Speaking to The News Minute, founder of Mangaluru-based Vishwas trust (for Senior Citizens), Dr. Olinda Pereira says that she too is not surprised with the figures. According to her, their 24-hour service distress helpline for senior citizens is averaging 150 calls a month.
â€śIn search for greener pastures, the youngsters are moving abroad, especially to Canada and Gulf countries. The old people are left behind and donâ€™t have anyone to look after them,â€ť the 92-year-old founder of Roshini Nilaya School of Social Work says.
Lidwin Lobo, says without revealing names that three people call them every day out of boredom. "They are lonely, all they need is someone to talk to," she says.
In many cases, the elderly are well to do and are provided with food, clothing and shelter. However, their children keep them confined indoors and donâ€™t introduce them to guests. The children hardly talk to them and the elders lack emotional and psychological support.
Several disputes arise mostly over property issues, especially since parents seem to be a burden for children, after they register the property in their name. "In one such case of Ganesh*, we helped him to file a case and procure maintenance from his children," Olinda says.
In several cases, senior citizens with own homes have walked into old age homes seeking institutionalisation. "They say they face harassment from neighbours, there are no caretakers; that they prefer to stay in ashrams instead of their home," she says.
Nearly 99% of senior citizens in Mangaluru found 'Extreme attention to phones (by younger generation) as disrespectful'. At the national level, more than 60% elderly agreed that quality time spent with them by their adult children as well grandchildren, has decreased with increase in usage of phones/computers.
Similarly, Bengaluru stands 7th in the statistics referring to 61% of elders of being disrespected, 10% slapping, 13% verbal abuse, 26% economic exploitation, 3% unwanted sexual contact, 46% neglect. Other south-Indian cities rank as follows: Chennai 6th, Hyderabad 8th, Madurai 10th, Kochi 13th and Vizag 14th, according to the survey by the Help-Age India.
During an interview, a elderly person aged 74 from Chennai suggested that the â€śinformation regarding old age homes needs to be disseminated at the societal level, following a target-based approach. This should be concomitant with the need to start the pension system for post-retirement age and reduce dependency on children, realising it to be the most effective way to deal with Elder Abuse. This is also required to bring about financial stability in the life of the elderlyâ€ť.
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