India no country for Elderly

Kounteya Sinha, TNN Sep 29, 2012, 04.45AM IST
(More than half of the abused…)

NEW DELHI: Indian sons, and their wives, aren’t treating their aged parents well. A study on abuse of India’s elderly, conducted across 20 cities and involving over 5,500 older people, has found that almost 1 in 3 (32%) have faced abuse. The son has been found to be the primary abuser in 56% of cases, followed by the daughter-in-law in 23% cases.

The study, to be presented to President Pranab Mukherjee on October 1, celebrated globally as the International Day of Older Persons, said more than 50% of those abused had faced it for more than five years. More than half (55%) of those who were abused did not report it to anyone. Around 80% of them did not report the matter to uphold family honour.

Delhi actually witnessed an exponential increase in abuse of the elderly. In 2011, Delhi’s abuse of the elderly rate stood at 12%. In comparison, 29.82% elderly people in Delhi said they faced abuse in 2012.

The study, conducted by Help Age India, found that abuse was highest in Madhya Pradesh (77.12%) while people in Rajasthan (1.67%) were most well behaved with the elderly in their family. Nearly 30% or 1 in 3 elderly persons reported abuse in Maharashtra while the abuse rate was just above 1 in 4 (27.56%) in Tamil Nadu. It was 60% in Assam, 52% in UP, 43% in Gujarat, 42.86% in Andhra Pradesh and 40.93% in West Bengal.

The study also brought out some shameful figures for Delhi. While nearly 30% of Delhi’s senior citizens had faced abuse, the primary perpetrator of abuse was the son in 60% cases, followed by the daughter-in-law in 24% cases. In Delhi, 76% of those abused did not report it, while of those who felt abused, 69% had felt disrespected with 35% facing it daily.

Around 86% of elderly felt that the most effective measure to control elder abuse was through sensitizing children and strengthening inter-generation bonding and 14% felt increased economic Independence was the solution.

The study said that in India, the family has been the mainstay of social support. “Even in this age and time, 58% of older persons in India are living with the family. The findings of this report also affirm confidence in the ability of the family to care for its older members,” the report said.

The National Policy on Older Persons has also recognized the importance of family for the well being of older persons and has decided to have programmes to promote family values, sensitize the young on the necessity and desirability of inter-generational bonding and continuity and the desirability of meeting filial obligations.

“State policies will encourage children to co-reside with their parents by providing tax relief, allowing rebates for medical expenses and giving preference in the allotment of houses. The policy also says that short-term staying facilities for older persons will be supported so that families can get some relief when they go out,” the study said.

The report made an interesting recommendation. In order to prevent elder abuse, it said there should be nationwide programmes in schools and colleges for sensitizing children and young adults towards the ageing and the aged, sensitization of healthcare workers to recognize and develop a protocol for treatment, develop a robust social security system that not only ensures income security to the older persons but also gives them opportunities for income generation.


A review conducted by the Union health ministry has found that most states have failed to honour or execute the much-touted National Programme for Healthcare of Elderly (NPHCE).

Of the 91 districts expected to start a geriatric clinic by now, only 22 have managed to do so. Worse, just a dozen districts have set up a 10-bed geriatric ward.

aryana and Leh in Jammu & Kashmir — have started running a bi-weekly geriatric clinic in a community health centre. And, only two districts – Mewat and Leh — have started a weekly geriatric clinic in a primary health centre.

In Punjab, a geriatric clinic and geriatric ward will come up in Bhatinda, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur soon.

Ministry officials say none of the steps – setting up of a geriatric clinic, ward or holding bi-weekly clinics — have been rolled out in states like Andhra PradeshAssamBiharTamil NaduWest Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

A ministry official said, “We have released funds under the NPHCE for creating the stipulated wards and running the clinics in 91 districts across 21 states. Initially, we sent the funds to 30 districts by March, 2011, and then to the rest by March, 2012. However very few states have done any work. In the 12th Plan, we intend to take NPHCE to all the districts in the country. Our target is to reach 100 districts every year.”

India will soon become home to the second largest number of senior citizens in the world. Though it is still a nation of young people, the health condition of its elderly is worrying.

The ministry’s own data says one out of every four elderly persons in India is depressed; one in three suffers from arthritis while one in five cannot hear. While one in three suffers from hypertension, almost half have poor vision. Ministry estimates say the number of people in the 60-plus age group in India will increase to 100 million in 2013 and to 198 million in 2030.

The elderly population will increase to 12% of the total population by 2025, 10% of which would be bedridden, requiring utmost care.

According to the 2006 World Population Prospects, by 2050, the number of Indians aged above 80 will increase more than six times from existing 78 lakh to about 5.14 crore.

“And yet, states haven’t woken up to putting in place systems or infrastructure to take care of its elderly,” a ministry official said.

The NPHCE expects to have 20 institutions with a strength to produce 40 post-graduates in geriatric medicine per year, additional 6,400 beds in district hospitals and 1,000 beds in medical colleges for the elderly by 2017.

India recently joined 10 other south-east Asian countries to adopt the Yogyakarta Declaration on Ageing and Health, committing to improving national response to the health of ageing population.