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    OpinionsElder abuse remains an underreported crisis

    Elder abuse remains an underreported crisis


    There is a pressing need for unified and comprehensive action to safeguard the dignity and well-being of our elders

    Geetanjali Chopra

    Every year on June 15th, the comes together to recognise and address a silent yet pervasive issue: elder abuse. Despite numerous policies and initiatives aimed at safeguarding our seniors, elder abuse remains a deeply troubling issue, with alarming statistics underscoring the urgent need for concerted action.

    World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) transcends mere awareness raising, it educates the public on various forms of elder abuse, empowering communities to identify and address these issues effectively.   WEAAD also serves as a critical tool for policy advocacy, reminding policymakers of their responsibility to enact and enforce laws that protect older adults and ensure they receive adequate support.

    Despite global efforts like WEAAD, elder abuse remains a disturbing reality. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 6 older adults experiences abuse in community settings, with even higher rates in institutions.  However, these figures likely underestimate the true scope of the problem, as elder abuse is vastly underreported due to fear, shame, or lack of awareness.

    In , a society traditionally known for cherishing its elders, a HelpAge India survey revealed a startling reality.  Approximately 71% of elderly respondents reported experiencing abuse, primarily by family members, particularly sons and daughters-in-law. This trend contradicts India's strong family values and respect for elders.

    Addressing elder abuse requires a multifaceted approach involving awareness, education, legal measures, and societal change. Both the elderly and the younger generations play critical roles in this effort. The elderly must be educated about their rights and the forms of abuse they might face.

    Empowering elders with knowledge can help them recognise abuse and take steps to protect themselves.

    The younger generation must be educated about the importance of respecting and caring for the elderly. Schools, colleges, and community organisations can play a significant role in fostering empathy and understanding. Programmes that promote intergenerational bonding and respect can help bridge the gap and reduce incidents of abuse. Building strong community support systems can provide a safety net for older adults. Community centers, senior citizen groups, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can offer a range of services, from counseling and legal advice to recreational activities and social engagement opportunities.

    Efforts should be made to create an where elder abuse can be reported without fear of stigma or retaliation. Helplines, dedicated to elder support units within police departments, and community-based intervention programs can play a pivotal role in this regard. The Indian government has implemented various initiatives to address elder care needs. The Programme for Healthcare of the Elderly (NPHCE) improves healthcare access, while the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (2007) safeguards elder rights. Policies like the National Action Plan for Senior Citizens promote active aging.

    However, challenges remain. The gap between policy and implementation is significant. Inadequate infrastructure, undertrained personnel, and insufficient funding hinder service delivery. Furthermore, awareness programs are needed, particularly in rural areas, to educate elderly people about their rights and available support. A comprehensive approach is crucial, addressing not only healthcare but also the social and psychological aspects of aging. Collaboration between the government, NGOs, and the private sector is essential to bridge these gaps and ensure proper care for India's elderly population.


    (The writer is Founder & President Wishes and Blessings NGO; views are personal)


    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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