Are Elderly People Safe in Their Own Households? New Evidence from Seven States of India

  • Daliya SebastianEmail author
  • T. V. Sekher


Elder abuse and neglect were never considered as problems in India when a value-based joint family system was prevailing. However, elder mistreatment is increasing as a result of the breakdown of joint families and fewer children to depend upon during old age. This chapter explores the extent and nature of elder abuse and neglect using the data from the Building Knowledge-Base on Population Ageing in India (BKPAI) survey which was conducted in 2011 in seven states of India. Information on health, economic and social aspects, including abuse and neglect, was collected from 9852 seniors. Some 10% of them reported having been mistreated after the age of 60. Verbal abuse and disrespect were the most common forms of abuse. Among those who had ever experienced abuse after turning 60, 90% faced verbal abuse and 45% were victims of economic abuse. Around 35% were victims of physical abuse. The main perpetrators were neighbours (46%), sons (41%) and relatives (32%). Wide inter-state variation exists with nearly one-third of seniors from Maharashtra reporting abuse and neglect compared to only 2% in Tamil Nadu and 3% in Kerala. Elderly people who lived alone, those who lived in rural areas and those who were illiterate were more likely to be mistreated than others. Economic dependency upon care-givers also increased their vulnerability. The general perception that families are the safest place for elderly people to live has been questioned to some extent by the findings of this study.


  1. Acierno, R., M.H. Tejada, W. Muzzy, and K. Steve. 2009. National elder mistreatment study. Accessed 24 January 2016.
  2. American Psychological Association. 2004. Elder abuse and neglect: In search of solutions. Accessed 24 January 2016.
  3. Arai, M. 2006. Elder abuse in Japan. Educational Gerontology 32: 13–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bakshi, S., and P. Pathak. 2016. Aging and the socioeconomic life of older adults in India: An empirical exposition. SAGE Open. doi: 10.1177/2158244015624130.Google Scholar
  5. Berkman, L., T.V. Sekher, B. Capistrant, and Y. Zheng. 2012. Social networks, family, and care giving among older adults in India. In Ageing in Asia: Findings from new and emerging data initiatives, ed. J.P. Smith, and M. Majmundar. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  6. Chokkanathan, Srinivasan, and Alex E.Y. Lee. 2006. Elder mistreatment in urban India: A community based study. Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect 17: 45–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Comijs, H., J. Smith, A. Pott, L. Bouter, and C. Jonker. 1998. Risk indicators of elder mistreatment in the community. Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect 9: 67–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cooper, C., A. Selwood, and G. Livingston. 2008. The prevalence of elder abuse and neglect—A systematic review. Age and Ageing 37: 151–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dimah, Agber, and Keren Patricia Dimah. 2002. Gender differences among abused older African Americans and African–American abusers in an elder abuse provider agency. Journal of Black Studies 3: 557–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Douglass, R., T. Hickey, and C.A. Noel. 1980. Study of maltreatment of the elderly and other vulnerable adults. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute of Gerontology, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  11. Eriksson, H. 2001. Violence against elderly women and men: A prevalence study. Umea: Umea University Sweden.Google Scholar
  12. Help Age India. 2015. Elder abuse: The Indian youth speaks out. Research report on National Survey of Youth Perspective on Elder Abuse, 2015. Accessed 24 January 2016.
  13. Help Age India. 2014. State of elderly in India 2014.
  14. Help Age International. 2013. Global Agewatch Index 2013. Insight Report.
  15. Jain, U.C. 2008. Elder abuse: Outcome of changing family dynamics. Indian Journal of Gerontology 22: 447–455.Google Scholar
  16. Khan, A.M., and Smita Handa. 2006. Physical abuse of elderly in Indian context. Indian Journal of Gerontology 20: 235–249.Google Scholar
  17. Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs. 2001. The study of the definition establishment and the actual condition of family violence in Korea. Accessed 2 April 2010.
  18. Kumar, Y., and A. Bhargava. 2014. Elder abuse in Indian families: Problems and preventive actions. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications. Accessed 21 January 2016.
  19. Madhurima, M. 2008. Elderly widows as victims of physical abuse: A qualitative study in the state of Punjab. Indian Journal of Gerontology 22: 501–514.Google Scholar
  20. Mahajan, A., and M. Madhurima. 1995. Family violence and abuse in India. New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publication.Google Scholar
  21. Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation. 2011. Situation analysis of elderly in India. New Delhi: Government of India.Google Scholar
  22. National Centre on Elder Abuse. 1998. What is elder abuse: What are the major types of elder abuse? Accessed 24 January 2016.
  23. Pillemer, K., and D. Finkelhor. 1987. Domestic violence against the elderly. Paper presented at the third conference on family violence, Durham, May 28–June 30.Google Scholar
  24. Registrar General of India. 2013. Sample registration system statistical report 2013. New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.Google Scholar
  25. Registrar General of India. 2014. SRS based abridged life tables 2007–2013. New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Accessed January 2016.
  26. Sebastian, D. 2011. Abuse and neglect of elderly in Indian families. BOLD 21: 5–12.Google Scholar
  27. Sebastian, D. 2013. Ageing and elder abuse in Kerala. New Delhi: Rawat Publications.Google Scholar
  28. Sebastian, D., and T.V. Sekher. 2011. Extent and nature of elder abuse in families: A study in Kerala. Helpage India-Research and Development Journal 17: 20–28.Google Scholar
  29. Skirbekk, V., and K.S. James. 2014. Abuse against elderly in India—The role of education. BMC Public Health 14: 336–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Srinivas, S., and B. Vijayalakshmi. 2001. Abuse and neglect of elderly in families. Indian Journal of Social Work 62: 465–478.Google Scholar
  31. UK Study of Abuse and Neglect of Older People. 2007. “Research findings”. Kings College London and National Centre for Social Research. Accessed 24 January 2016.
  32. United Nations. 2002. Elder abuse widespread and unprotected. United Nations Department of Public Information. Accessed 24 January 2016.
  33. UNFPA. 2012. Report on the status of elderly in selected states of India—2011. Building a knowledge base on population ageing in India. New Delhi: UNFP.Google Scholar
  34. United Nations. 2013. World population ageing—2013. New York: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW)New DelhiIndia
  2. 2.International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS)MumbaiIndia

Personalised recommendations