Elder Abuse in Maharashtra: Extent, Forms, and Policy and Programmatic Implications
In Indian society, the situation of older persons is imagined to be safe and secure considering the value system of filial piety, conservative culture, the still sustaining joint family and co-residence with their children. However, the demographic trends and changing social values ushered in during the twentieth century have given rise to challenges and concerns for the older population in developing countries including India. The size of the older population is growing at a rapid pace in India with 104 million seniors in 2011 (9% of the total population), which is projected to more than triple by 2050 (20% of the total population). Simultaneously, the social, economic and cultural context in which population ageing is taking place is itself changing due to increasing urbanization, increasing participation of women in the workforce, and withering inter-generational bonds, with consequent impacts upon the care and lives of elderly. In this scenario, this demographic transition and the changing social, familial, and economic contexts are bound to bring severe social, economic, and health implications and have resulted in incidences of elder abuse. Though most elderly people experience some abuse, the majority of them may not talk about it openly due to various socio-cultural factors. The World Health Organization (WHO) (2008) estimates the prevalence rates of elderly abuse in developed countries as ranging from 1 to 10%. The prevalence of elder abuse in seven demographically advanced states of India was 11.4% (at aggregate level), with wide differentials across states, ranging between 1.8% in Tamil Nadu and as high as 35% in Maharashtra (UNFPA 2012). As reported in the United Nations Population Fund study, elder abuse was highest in Maharashtra, this chapter explores the issue in detail in this area (its dimensions, causes, perpetrators, and implications) and, based on study findings, proposes policy and programmatic recommendations to minimize abuse of seniors. The study utilized secondary data from the Building Knowledge-Base on Population Ageing in India (BKPAI) survey conducted in 2011 for the state of Maharashtra, in addition to analysis of a few case studies collected later to understand the underlying dynamics of elder abuse. The findings clearly reveal that older women, especially those living alone or widowed, are more vulnerable to elder abuse. Elderly people who are currently working reported experience of economic abuse, and the incidence of abuse was greater among them as compared to those not currently working. The majority of elderly people look to the state’s intervention to ensure social security, combat elder abuse and dignity in life. Various strategies which have proposed to combat elder abuse promote a positive social attitude in the community, and aim to ensure minimal dependence of elderly people on their family members by ensuring social security for those who do not have any income and assets, and strengthening the health systems to identify elder abuse, capacity building of care-givers and respite care.
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