Dr. Lopamudra Priyadarshini

Is Old Age a Curse in India?

India is considered to be synonymous with culture on the face of the earth. The history of this country has reflected many ethics and etiquettes about different aspects of life. One of the common aspects is respecting the elders, as the common saying across every other Indian household: “respect your elders”. Indeed, we all grew up listening to this one dialogue from our parents, grandparents, relatives and every other person we met. And this is how this dialogue got intertwined in our sub-conscious mind. Moving to school, the teachers would preach the same about respecting the elders, as our culture has always taught us.
Coming back from the school, we will see an alternate reality of our father scolding his old father or mother about something as petty as spilled chai due to their Parkinson’s disease or asking to bring some medicine. And slowly the theory that we have been fed would contradict the reality. Yes, this is the story of numerous households, where the senior members are humiliated, harassed, scolded and abused by their family members.
And the unfortunate reality is that we get to hear from the elderly, a very common wish, “Bhagwaan humey chaltey haath paer se uthaae”, or “may God keep us functional till the day we die”. Because ironic to the teachings, old age is a curse in this country, as parents and old relatives are considered to be a burden that nobody wants. As bitter and ugly as it sounds, this is the truth and people are rather afraid to grow old and dependent on their family members in the later innings of their lives.
As per a 2019 survey by the Agewell Foundation on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, over 71% of the elderly are mistreated, harassed, humiliated and abused by family members, relatives, and others. Source. Further, the survey defines this condition of every second senior citizen of the country. The humiliation increases in cases where the elderly are dependent on their family members. And the factors for such treatment include:
  • Chronic diseases of older persons
  • Poor financial status of the family
  • Declining moral value system
  • Lack of space
  • Interpersonal issues

Considering the statistics shared by the Ministry for Statistics and Programme Implementation in 2016, India has about 103.9 million people above the age of 60, constituting over 8.5% of the total population. While India is considered to be a young country and become the youngest by this year, by 2050, the population of elderlies will reach 325 Million, constituting over 20% of the total population. For a better understanding, the Indian population will grow by 40% from 2006 to 2050, the percentage of elderly population growth will be 270%.And with the way they are dealt, imagine the agony of a huge chunk of population being humiliated and harassed daily. Source

Indeed, life expectancy has improved over the years, especially in the ages above 70, but the quality of life is simply degrading year by year. Focusing on statistics on Old age care, the number of old age homes in India is as low as 728. Out of these, merely 325 homes offer free services, 95 of these offer pay and stay and another 116 offer both, pay & stay and free services. Considering the heath factor, only 278 homes across the whole country are for sick and merely 101 homes are women-only. Imagine the atrocity of having merely 728 old age homes across the country for over 103.9 Million people. Source
The cost of old age homes is not exactly as pocket friendly as people might be able to manage in India, considering the majority of the population belongs to the middle and lower class sections. This cost can go up to 40 lacs and more, depending upon the types of services offered. Source
Further, with such behavior towards the elderlies send them in a much worst situation, physically, mentally and emotionally, leading to numerous diseases and disorders, leaving the weaker on a much earlier stage and vulnerable due to the same. And in the current scenario, infections like Covid-19 affect the elderly on a much larger extent than other age groups, the reason being their low immunity and terrible health conditions.
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?

2 comments

  1. We never teach our children things like how to empathise..or be thankful…they only learn to fight to win in the rat race …so thats the emotion that comes naturally

  2. we all need to be little more human with love and gratitude for all that we have in this world from nature. we must respect and accept an inclusive society with dignity of living for all.

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