One in every six senior citizens faces abuse globally. According to some studies, the prevalence of elder abuse in India ranges between 9.6 to 61.7% across different states, although the actual figures may be much higher than reported. It is understood that only one in every twenty-four cases of elder abuse is reported in the country.
Elder abuse awareness in India is very low. In fact, it is usually hidden and ‘normalised’ within the closed walls of homes and nursing homes with the abusers being immediate family members and caregivers. As per a survey conducted in 2014, half of India’s elderly (50%) reported experiencing abuse, of which 77% identified their abuser within their families. Another survey conducted across 22 cities in 2022 found that 35% of elders in India suffered abuse by their own sons, 21% by daughters-in-law and only 2% of them were abused by their house help, who was not a family member. The reported abuse ranged from ‘disrespect’ and ‘verbal abuse’ to ‘neglect’ and ‘physical violence’.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines elder abuse as ‘A single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person’. According to WHO, emotional abuse is the most common type of elder abuse. However, elder abuse isn’t just one action or inaction; it can take many forms. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), USA, there are seven different types of elder abuse. They include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse and self-neglect. All forms of elder abuse can lead to physical and/or emotional harm and in many cases, even death.
As per a study, 46% of elders in India are unaware of any kind of abuse redressal mechanism or legal support available. Many seniors do not know that elder abuse in India is a punishable offence. A person harassing senior citizens can be brought under Section 506 for criminal intimidation. If the person is mentally or verbally abusive towards a senior citizen, a case under Section 294 can be brought into force. A large number of the elderly are also not aware that they can apply for a monthly allowance from their children, in case they are not able to support themselves. The children or heirs could be punished for not providing such maintenance to their older parents.
According to studies, elders are more likely to self-report financial exploitation than emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect. It is therefore important to keep a close eye on your elderly loved one’s well being and take action if you think any type of elder abuse is occurring. You can start by calling the leading senior citizens helpline, Dignity Helpline on 18002678780. This service is available 24*7, free of cost and all across India.
As a trusted elder abuse helpline in India, Dignity Helpline not only rescues elders from abuse, it also provides trustworthy information and advice, counselling services and companionship support to mitigate loneliness. The service was initiated in 1995 as a response to the growing number of elder abuse cases in India by Dignity Foundation, a leading nonprofit organisation for elder care. The senior citizens helpline teams are stationed across six cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi NCR.
For more information about Dignity Helpline, please call us on the toll free number 18002678780. For further information, visit www.dignityfoundation.com