HomeEqualityChildrenMasked by Ignorance – How Elderly Indians' Neglect; Loneliness Overpowers Governmental Action

Masked by Ignorance – How Elderly Indians' Neglect; Loneliness Overpowers Governmental Action

With traditional modes of family support declining and a growing number of their children migrating in search of better opportunities, thousands of elderly Indian parents are without any sort of physical, social, emotional and financial support and are as a result paying the price for it. Dumped and left alone to suffer in India, the challenges and struggles experienced on a daily basis by these parents are profound, and yet there is little to no awareness for it. To combat this issue, the government of India enacted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act in 2007 in an effort to provide more effective provision for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens. On paper, the tenets of the act appear to be a step in the right direction in resolving this issue. The legislation is good about providing suffering parents with access to necessities such as food, clothing, residence, medical attendance and treatment while also increasing the incentive of children to take care of their lonely parents by making the abandonment of parents punishable by law.

Yet, despite all of this, elderly loneliness persists. Currently about 21% of the Indian elderly consider themselves “severely isolated”, while 12% even go as far as to say that “no one cares they exist.” Such percentages are expected to rise even in spite of the enactment of the Maintenance and Welfare Act, as it is estimated that 25% of those over 60 years-old and 40% of those over 75 are likely to fall under the “severely isolated” category.  So why is it that an increasing number of India’s elderly suffer through neglect in spite of governmental action? To begin with, the existence of the act itself is largely unknown to the Indian population. In fact, a study conducted by Delhi University shows that 98% of the elderly who face neglect and isolation do not file any complaints because they aren’t even aware of their rights. It’s no wonder then why a growing number of India’s aged parent population is suffering loneliness and neglect. The once persistent mindset of Indian youngsters respecting and taking good care of their elders that was established by India’s bygone joint-family system is now being overtaken by a new mindset established by the increasing tendency of children to migrate and leave their parents behind in pursuit of careers. It is a mindset that frames caring for elders as more of a burden than a responsibility, and it is quickly evolving into a social norm, as evident with the clear lack of awareness for the needs of the isolated elderly.

The 2007 Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act can’t do it on its own. To successfully decrease the immense suffering experienced by India’s elderly, steps need to be taken to prevent the widespread ignorance exhibited by India’s populace from becoming cemented permanently into Indian culture. For instance, organizations such as HelpAge India are taking steps to not only provide the marginalized elderly with basic age-care facilities, but also are taking steps to promote intergenerational bonding by having kids empower elders through interactive activities. In other words, the best way to help the underprivileged elderly is to show that we care. The reign of ignorance towards the elderly’s needs must be dethroned, as it is a responsibility to help those who took care of us as we grew up, not a burden.

[Image Attribute: https://flic.kr/p/cnd7au]
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