Venerable, also vulnerable

Elderly PeopleElders need special attention, care

We have always been taught to look up to our elders and take care of them, and sometimes some of us fail in our duty. What is unfortunate and wrong is that the elderly are also abused at times. Although this is not a new phenomenon, increasing awareness has brought the problem into public consciousness. Indeed, studies have shown that their abuse is as widespread as it is under-reported.

All elder persons are vulnerable, and abuse could be physical, or mental. Inappropriate use of medication can cause its own damage, as can emotional abuse like treating the elderly like children, neglecting them, or violating their privacy. Impinging on the dignity of any person is wrong, particularly, if the person is a dependent on the family. Chandigarh does not figure in a recent study by an NGO, HelpAge India, but Delhi fares badly. In the national Capital, 100 per cent of the respondents blamed their daughters-in-law for abusing them at some or the other time. While their unanimity strengthens a stereotype, it must also be noted that the primary care-giver for the elderly in most houses is the daughter-in-law. Thus, for any perceived transgressions, the blame comes her way, rather than that of the son who would be away from home most of the time. The issue of mismatched expectations between the two parties would also impact the interaction between them. In any case, for any relationship to work, there has to be mutual respect and understanding, a rare phenomenon in today’s society.

Now, it is out in the open that the abuse of the elderly is widespread. Acknowledging this is the first step. We must focus our resources and energy on taking care of this problem. We must watch out for signs that someone has been abused. Society must intervene by taking measures that would ensure that the elderly live with dignity and that the vulnerability of these venerable ones is not exploited in any manner.

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