Contextualizing Elder Abuse and Neglect in Institutional and Home Settings: Case Studies from India

  • Selim Jahangir
  • P. N. N. Nikhil
  • Ajay BaileyEmail author
  • Anindita Datta


Traditionally, Indian older adults were cared for by their family members where respect for the aged was an integral feature of the culture. With changing aspirations, family compositions, and changing social values, we see a greater crisis of care. In this context of care-gap, the issues of elder abuse and negligence are becoming more critical in dyadic care relationships in urban societies. In this chapter we explore different forms of abuse and mistreatment older adults experience from their care-givers both at home as well as in institutions. Here we argue that in the changing social and family structure the issue of elder abuse has varying degrees, ranging from neglect to severe physical abuse. We combine two studies: first in-depth interviews with older men and their care-givers, collected from homes as well as old-age institutions in Delhi and Kolkata. Second, we examine the abuse and neglect faced by men and women currently living in institutions in Kottayam, Kerala. This chapter aims to explain how these varying degrees of elder abuse and neglect have affected the living arrangements and everyday care of the older men and women.



We would like to thank the participants of the project, older men, women and their care-providers, for their time and for sharing their views on care practices. We are also thankful to Shinjini, Rupsa and Dipankar for transcribing and translating the data. This chapter was written within the Indian-European research networking grant: Ageing and well-being in a globalising world (NWO 465-11-009), funded by NWO-ESRC-ICSSR. The participating institutions include the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore; the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum; the Population Research Centre, University of Groningen, The Netherlands; and the University of Southampton, United Kingdom.


  1. Anme, Tokie, Mary McCall, and Toshio Tatara. 2006. An exploratory study of abuse among frail elders using services in a small village in Japan. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 17: 1–20. doi: 10.1300/J084v17n02_01.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arai, Mizuho. 2006. Elder abuse in Japan. Educational Gerontology 32: 13–23. doi: 10.1080/03601270500338567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chang, Janet, and Ailee Moon. 1997. Korean American elderly’s knowledge and perceptions of elder abuse: A qualitative analysis of cultural factors. Journal of Multicultural Social Work 6: 139–154. doi: 10.1300/J285v06n01_09.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cheng, Sheung-Tak, and Alfred C.M. Chan. 2006. Filial piety and psychological well-being in well older Chinese. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 61: 262–269. doi: 10.1093/geronb/61.5.P262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chokkanathan, Srinivasan, and Alex E.Y. Lee. 2005. Elder mistreatment in urban India: A community based study. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 17: 45–61. doi: 10.1300/J084v17n02_03.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Comijs, Hannie, Anne Margriet Pot, Johannes H. Smit, Lex M. Bouter, and Cees Jonker. 1998. Elder abuse in the community: Prevalence and consequences. Journal of the American geriatrics Society 46: 885–888. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1998.tb02724.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Das, Man Singh, and Panos Demetrios Bardis (eds.). 1978. The family in Asia. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House.Google Scholar
  8. Desai, K.G., and Rosamma Veedon. 1993. Family dynamics and development programs. Indian Journal of Social Work 1: 132–138.Google Scholar
  9. Desai, Murli, and S. Siva Raju. 2000. Gerontological social work in India: Some issues & perspectives. Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corporation.Google Scholar
  10. Dong, Xin Qi, Melissa A. Simon, and Martin Gorbien. 2007. Elder abuse and neglect in an urban Chinese population. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 19: 79–96. doi: 10.1300/J084v19n03_05.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dong, Xin Qi, E-Shien Chang, Esther Wong, Bernarda Wong, and Melissa A. Simon. 2010. How do US Chinese older adults view elder mistreatment? Findings from a community-based participatory research study. Journal of Aging and Health 23: 289–312. doi: 10.1177/0898264310385931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fulmer, Terry, Gregory Paveza, and Lisa Guadagno. 2002. Elder abuse and neglect: Policy issues for two very different problems. Public Policy & Aging Report 12: 15–18. doi: 10.1093/ppar/12.2.15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gupta, Giri Raj. 1978. The family in India: The joint family. In The family in Asia, ed. Man Singh Das, and Panos Demetrios Bardis, 72–88. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House.Google Scholar
  14. Gupta, Rashmi. 2007. Perceived caregiver burden scale for caregivers of the elderly in India. Journal of Applied Gerontology 26: 120–138. doi: 10.1177/0733464806297685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. HelpAge International. 2012. Ageing in the twenty-first century: A celebration and a challenge. Accessed 9 Jan 2016.
  16. HelpAge International. 2013. Global AgeWatch Index 2013: Insight report, summary and methodology. Accessed 9 Jan 2016.
  17. HelpAgeIndia. 2012. Report on elder abuse in India. Accessed 9 Jan 2016.
  18. Jamuna, Duvvuru. 1999. Elder care in India. Conflicting tradition and modernization. In Aging societies in a new millennium. Proceedings of 3rd international conference of IAHSA, Honolulu, Hawaii, 33–35.Google Scholar
  19. Jamuna, Duvvuru. 2003. Issues of elder care and elder abuse in the Indian context. Journal of Aging & Social Policy 15: 125–142. doi: 10.1300/J031v15n02_08.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jha, Kali Nath. 1985. Women towards modernization. Patna: Janaki Prakashan.Google Scholar
  21. Kapur, Promilla. 1978. The family in India: Women in modern India. In The family in Asia, ed. Man Singh Das, and Panos Demetrios Bardis, 72–88. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House.Google Scholar
  22. Kashyap, Lina. 2004. The impact of modernization on Indian families: The counselling challenge. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling 26: 341–350. doi: 10.1007/s10447-004-0169-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lachs, Mark, and Karl Pillemer. 2004. Elder abuse. Lancet 364: 1192–1272. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17144-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lee, Yoon-Ro, and Kyu-Taik Sung. 1997. Cultural differences in caregiving motivations for demented parents: Korean caregivers versus American caregivers. International Journal of Aging and Human Development 44: 115–127. doi: 10.2190/BLY5-07M1-6VVY-XJMX.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee, Hee Yun, and Charissa K. Eaton. 2009. Financial abuse in elderly Korean immigrants: Mixed analysis of the role of culture on perception and help-seeking intention. Journal of Gerontological Social Work 52: 463–488. doi: 10.1080/01634370902983138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nagpaul, Kalma. 1998. Elder abuse among Asian Indians: Traditional versus modern perspectives. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 9: 77–92. doi: 10.1300/J084v09n02_07.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nair, Gopinath P.R. 1986. Kerala, India. In Migration of Asian workers to the Arab world, ed. Godfrey Guntallike, 19–55. Tokyo: United Nations University.Google Scholar
  28. National Elder Abuse Incidence Study (NEAIS). 1998. The administration for children and families and the administration on aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed 8 Jan 2016.
  29. National Research Council. 2003. Elder mistreatment: Abuse, neglect and exploitation in an aging America. Washington, DC: The National Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Nayar, P.K.B. 1999. Changing role of the family in the care of the elderly. In Ageing in India, ed. S.D. Gokhale, P.V. Ramamurti, Nirmala Pandey, and B.J. Pendse, 168–178. Bombay: Somaiya Pubs. Pvt. Ltd.Google Scholar
  31. Ng, Sik Hung, Cynthia S.F. Loong, An Ping He, James H. Liu, and Ann Weatherall. 2000. Communication correlates of individualism and collectivism talk directed at one or more addressees in family conversations. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 19: 26–45. doi: 10.1177/0261927X00019001002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ng, Anita Ching Ying, David R. Phillips, and William Keng-mun Lee. 2002. Persistence and challenges to filial piety and informal support of older persons in a modern Chinese society: A case study in TuenMun, Hong Kong. Journal of Aging Studies 16: 135–153. doi: 10.1016/S0890-4065(02)00040-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ogg, Jim, and Gerry Bennett. 1992. Elder abuse in Britain. British Medical Journal 305: 998–999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pablo, Sharon, and Kathryn L. Braun. 1998. Perceptions of elder abuse and neglect and help-seeking patterns among Filipino and Korean elderly women In Honolulu. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 9: 63–76. doi: 10.1300/J084v09n02_06.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pillemer, Karl, and David Finkelhor. 1988. The prevalence of elder abuse: A random sample survey. The Gerontologist 28: 51–57. doi: 10.1093/geront/28.1.51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Podnieks, Elizabeth. 1992. National survey on abuse of the elderly in Canada. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 4: 5–58. doi: 10.1300/J084v04n01_02.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Prakash, Indira J. 2001. Elder abuse: Global response and Indian initiatives. Indian Journal of Social Work 62: 446–463.Google Scholar
  38. Rajan, S.Irudaya, and Sanjay Kumar. 2003. Living arrangements among Indian elderly: Evidence from national family health survey. Economic & Political Weekly 38: 75–80.Google Scholar
  39. Rao, V.V.Prakasa, and V. NandiniRao. 1982. Marriage, the family and women in India. New Delhi: Heritage Publishers.Google Scholar
  40. Sachan, Shweta, and Sukhminder Kaur. 2014. Elderly abuse and neglect in India. Asian Journal of Home Sciences 9: 276–279. Accessed 5 Jan 2016.
  41. Sasaki, Megumi, Yumiko Arai, Keigo Kumamoto, Koji Abe, Asuna Arai, and Yoko Mizuno. 2007. Factors related to potentially harmful behaviors towards disabled older people by family caregivers in Japan. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 22: 250–257. doi: 10.1002/gps.1670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sebastian, Daliya, and T.V. Sekher. 2011. Extent and nature of elder abuse in Indian families: A study in Kerala. HelpAge India-Research and Development Journal 17: 20–28.Google Scholar
  43. Sharma, Madan Lal, and T.M. Dak (eds.). 1987. Aging in India: Challenge for the society. New Delhi: Ajanta Publications.Google Scholar
  44. Singh, Avtar, Akshi Duggal, Ravinder Singh, and Upmesh K. Talwar. 2015. Elderly abuse: Suffering in silence-who is listening? Some concern for social work practices. International Journal of Health 3: 14–19. doi: 10.14419/ijh.v3i1.4497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Singh, Yogendra. 1997. Changing trends in the Indian family and the adjustment of the aged. R&D Journal 3: 31–42.Google Scholar
  46. Srinivas, S., and B. Vijayalakshmi. 2001. Abuse and neglect of elderly in families. Indian Journal of Social Work 62: 464–479.Google Scholar
  47. Sung, Kyu-taik. 2001. Elder respect: Exploration of ideals and forms in East Asia. Journal of Aging Studies 15: 13–26. doi: 10.1016/S0890-4065(00)00014-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tam, Sandra, and Sheila Neysmith. 2006. Disrespect and isolation: Elder abuse in Chinese communities. Canadian Journal on Aging 25: 141–152. doi: 10.1353/cja.2006.0043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tsai, Hsiu-Hsin, Mei-Hui Chen, and Yun-Fang Tsai. 2008. Perceptions of filial piety among Taiwanese university students. Journal of Advanced Nursing 63: 284–290. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04711.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Valentine, Deborah, and Tim Cash. 1986. A definitional discussion of elder maltreatment. Journal of Gerontological Social Work 9: 17–28. doi: 10.1300/J083V09N03_03.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vaswani, Thrity G. 2001. Family care of the elderly: Abuse, neglect and abandonment. Indian Journal of Social Work 62: 492–505.Google Scholar
  52. Veedon, Rosamma. 2001. Elder abuse in the urban context. Indian Journal of Social Work 62: 480–491.Google Scholar
  53. World Health Organisation (WHO). 2008. A global response to elder abuse and neglect: Building primary health care capacity to deal with the problem worldwide: Main report. Accessed 12 Feb 2014.
  54. Yan, Elsie, and Catherine So-Kum Tang. 2001. Prevalence and psychological impact of Chinese elder abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 16: 1158–1174. doi: 10.1177/088626001016011004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yan, Elsie, Ko-Ling Chan, and Agnes Tiwari. 2015. A systematic review of prevalence and risk factors for elder abuse in Asia. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 16: 199–219. doi: 10.1177/1524838014555033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Selim Jahangir
    • 1
  • P. N. N. Nikhil
    • 2
  • Ajay Bailey
    • 3
    Email author
  • Anindita Datta
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of DelhiNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Population Research CentreUniversity of Groningen and Institute for Social and Economic ChangeBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.Population Research Centre, Faculty of Spatial SciencesUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations