A few weeks back, I shared a post about the condition of elderly people in India. The article ended with the lines,’I will stop the article here, quoting only the issues that are faced by the elderly, with a question for you. What do you think should be the solution?’. The post reached hundreds of people, yet only 2 people were concerned enough to write down a solution to the problems faced by parents, grandparents, and relatives from across the country and world. And it exactly defines the gravity of this situation, as people do not care.
Let’s take an example of a teacher who worked hard, got all the respect because of his stature and post, reached sixty, and got retired. Suddenly the life takes a drastic turn, where his 40 year-long routines suddenly came to a complete halt and he has got nothing to do now. He doesn’t have to wake up early and rush to the school and have no aim to chase anymore. Slowly illnesses start surrounding him, ranging from diabetes, blood pressure issues, dementia, and heart troubles. If that wasn’t enough, the way he was treated being a teacher isn’t exactly the way he gets treated at home, lowering his morale and pulling him into depression and low self-esteem. The abusive nature of his younger ones dents his identity and slowly, he gives up on hopes and wish to live, leaving him weak, sick, and vulnerable. More or less, this is the tale of 71% of old age people living in this sub-continent, getting abused on a daily basis by their own people.
Are their rights protected?
Indian law has served its part by releasing the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 to protect their rights. Under Chapter II of the act, Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens
- A senior citizen including parent who is unable to maintain himself from his own earning or property owned by him, shall be entitled to make an application under section 5 in case of –
i). Parent or grand-parent, against one or more of his children not being a minor
ii). A childless senior citizen, against such of his relative referred to in clause (g) of section 2
- The obligation of the children or relative, as the case may be, to maintain a senior citizen extends to the needs of such citizen so that senior citizen may lead a normal life.
- The obligation of the children to maintain his or her parent extends to the needs of such parent either father or mother or both, as the case may be, so that such parent may lead a normal life.
- Any person being a relative of a senior citizen and having sufficient means shall maintain such senior citizen provided he is in possession of the property of such senior citizen or he would inherit the property of such senior citizen: Provided that where more than one relatives are entitled to inherit the property of a senior citizen, the maintenance shall be payable by such relative in the proportion in which they would inherit his property
Further, the United Nations defines Principles for Older Persons, and encourages governments of different countries for incorporating the following principles into their national programs:
- Older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help.
- Older persons should have the opportunity to work or to have access to other income-generating opportunities.
- Older persons should be able to participate in determining when and at what pace withdrawal from the labour force takes place.
- Older persons should have access to appropriate educational and training programmes.
- Older persons should be able to live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities.
- Older persons should be able to reside at home for as long as possible.
- Older persons should remain integrated in society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their well-being and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations.
- Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and capabilities.
- Older persons should be able to form movements or associations of older persons.
- Older persons should benefit from family and community care and protection in accordance with each society’s system of cultural values.
- Older persons should have access to health care to help them to maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and emotional well- being and to prevent or delay the onset of illness.
- Older persons should have access to social and legal services to enhance their autonomy, protection and care.
- Older persons should be able to utilize appropriate levels of institutional care providing protection, rehabilitation and social and mental stimulation in a humane and secure environment.
- Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality of their lives.
- Older persons should be able to pursue opportunities for the full development of their potential.
- Older persons should have access to the educational, cultural, spiritual and recreational resources of society.
- Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.
- Older persons should be treated fairly regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic background, disability or other status, and be valued independently of their economic contribution.
While all the rights, laws, and principles are in place, people leave no stone unturned to make their elderly uncomfortable by harassing and abusing them. Being related to the abusers, the elderly feel reluctant to complain against them or in worst cases, are afraid that they will be beaten up or thrown out of their houses. The solution to it lies in a two-step process:
- People get retired at sixty, often considered to be useless and discarded from any and every duty. This is where they start to get depressed and diseased due to the lack of their need in society. One thing not to be ignored is that this generation is full of rich experience gained throughout, be it through their job, life, and homely errands (in case of house makers). They can use their spare time to share this knowledge with kids through schools, where they can become visiting teachers of different subjects and streams of which they specialize in. non-working and uneducated elderly women can take up classes of home science and crafts, where they can share their immense knowledge on homemaking to both the genders. In this manner, not only the elderly will find their need in the world, but also the less fortunate will get free education, creating a symbiotic relationship where both the parties benefit from each other.
- The current and younger generations shall be made aware of the mental state and the phases that the elderly face in their life. This can be made possible through web series, movies, drama, and social messaging, enabling them to develop awareness towards their plight. With this move, people will be more receptive and responsible towards the agony of their elders, creating a happier society.
The solution seems to be easy, but impossible not until each one of us steps forward to make it a better world for our elders, the way they did for us, and enabling them to enjoy a healthy and happy life, even in their old age.