Life is a really wonderful gift from God, and one of the most essential aspects of it is aging. An individual’s life is divided into stages such as infancy, childhood, puberty, maturity, middle age, and old age. We are all busy in the early phases of our life, discovering the lovely hues of youth, learning new things, and are more inclined toward self-development. Then we approach adulthood and begin to organize our life, whether it’s our employment, marriage, children, family requirements, and so on; the list is infinite. Then there’s old age, which is the most relaxed and serene time of our life. It is that point in our lives when we can sit back and reflect on our lives, our successes, our ups and downs, and feel satisfied.
As we become older, we start to notice certain changes and may develop some impairments that are quite typical for our age. People of this age need to be helped in any way imaginable, whether emotionally, financially, physically, or cognitively. However, the unfortunate fact is that some people in today’s world fail to grasp such basic human foundations. The number of incidents involving children’s misunderstanding of elderly people and their needs is growing, and in many cases, this leads to elder abuse.
India is a land of ethics and feelings, where we respect each other’s emotions and believe in peaceful coexistence. In India, where we cherish and accept a value-based, joint family system, old age has never been an issue. Indian culture has always been courteous and supportive of elders. With that in mind, elder abuse was never regarded as an Indian issue, but rather as a Western one.
However, the coping abilities of both younger and older family members are now being tested more frequently than ever before. There are occasions when younger family members exhibit undesirable conduct, which the elder family members see as odd and causes them to feel ignored and discouraged.
People used to regard their parents with the greatest reverence and worship them as gods, but the harsh realities of today’s society are quite different. Children perceive parents as a burden that no one wants to bear. This is why many parents are found in deplorable situations walking around or placed in old age facilities. Today’s scenario is extremely paradoxical and awful, with animals receiving more love and affection than people and humans being treated worse. It’s revolting how brutally parents are abandoned by their children.
They are the ones that work diligently their entire lives to see their children succeed and selflessly offer all within their means to make them a civilized human being. Our parents experience various challenges and impairments as they age, which is quite natural, and all they want is to be loved and supported in the same manner they did for their children, but when the opposite situations arise, these children appear to avoid their duties.
The current generation’s self-centered mentality and steady movement toward Western culture has undermined the hold of traditional values and ethics. One of the other reasons for such conduct is people’s rising greed and desire to be wealthy and powerful. As a result, they participate in elder abuse and emotionally and psychologically manipulate their parents in order to compel them to give up their property and other possessions in favour of their children.
Elder Abuse: Meaning And Types
Elder abuse (also known as elder mistreatment, senior abuse, abuse in later life, abuse of older adults, abuse of older women, and abuse of older men) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, that causes harm or distress to an older person.
It is not necessarily essential for abuse to be committed by children; it may be committed by anybody, such as a spouse, family member, or any other person on whom an old person is reliant; nonetheless, abuse by children is the most serious issue that must be addressed (including their spouse). The phrase abuse looks to be quite easy, but it is actually a highly complicated term with a wide range of meanings. There are several forms of abuse, including physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and neglect. An old person may be subjected to the following types of abuse:
- Physical abuse: Elder physical abuse is defined as the purposeful use of force against an older person that results in bodily injury ranging from physical pain to death.
- Emotional abuse: Psychological and emotional abuse are purposeful behaviours that cause an older mental agony, fear, or suffering. Insults, seclusion, humiliation, intimidation, and name calling are all examples.
- Elder sexual abuse: is defined as any type of coerced or unwanted sexual encounter with an older adult. Some of the indicators of sexual abuse include anus or genital bleeding, newly transferred sexually transmitted infections, anus or genital discomfort, pelvic injuries, and so on.
- Elder financial abuse: is the unlawful, unapproved, or inappropriate use of an older person’s resources by someone in a trusting relationship with that individual. This type of abuse can occur with persons who are unable to grasp their financial accounts or conditions due to advanced age.
- Neglect: Senior neglect occurs when the person in charge of the older’s care fails to safeguard the elder from harm or fails to satisfy the elder’s needs in a way that results in or risks significant injury.
Neglect is not an honest accident:
It is the result of carelessness or a lack of regard for the wellbeing of an elder. It may include depriving elders from basic needs like- shelter, clothing, health upkeep or nutrition needs.
Indian Provisions Regarding Elder Abuse:
The point is, what are we doing to address this issue, and do we have any provisions in place in our country? The following acts and legislation have been introduced in this regard:
The Parental Maintenance Act of 2007 – This law has been modified twice, once in 2013 and again in 2018. The original Act stated that sons had a legal responsibility to care for their parents. Following a 2013 modification, parents might file a complaint against their sons, and the boys could be held legally liable for not supporting their parents. Daughters and sons-in-law were also deemed liable for supporting their parents under the 2018 modification.
The Parents and Senior Citizens Act (2007) makes it a legal requirement for children and legal guardians to pay maintenance to elderly people. It enables state governments to establish and operate old age homes in each district. Senior persons who are unable to sustain themselves might ask for a monthly stipend from their children. Children or heirs may be penalized if they do not provide support to elderly people. The punishment may be a Rs.5000 fine, three months in jail, or both.
Whereas it is critical to address the new law that was proposed in 2019 to alter the contents of the previously stated bill. The Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment) Bill 2019 aims to provide for the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens by ensuring their basic needs, safety and security, the establishment, management, and regulation of institutions and services, and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It also mentions eliminating the Rs10000 cap and appointing nodal police officers for senior people at each police station and district-level special police unit, as well as a helpline for senior persons.
While many faiths have varied measures to safeguard the rights of older persons, some are extremely specific, such as the legislative provision for parental support under Hindu personal law included in Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. Similarly, Muslim laws, Christian laws, and even Parsees laws have similar clauses. The Indian Constitution has provisions to protect the rights of individuals beyond the age of 60. Because these articles are part of Chapter IV of the constitution, which discusses the Directive Principles, they cannot be enforced by a court of law, as mentioned in Article 37; nonetheless, they serve as the foundation for any legislation.
Article 41 of the Constitution guarantees elderly persons the right to work, education, and public support. It also requires the state to protect these rights in instances of disability, old age, or illness. Meanwhile, Article 46 states that the elderly’s educational and economic rights must be maintained by the state.
Some societal changes are unavoidable, such as raising older people’s understanding of their rights and the types of assistance available under various laws. Furthermore, politicians must broaden their view on the term “NEEDS,” since they frequently fail to understand the social “needs” of belongingness, preserving power, and a position of significance in the family, a set of needs that frequently go unsaid.