World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to restore dignity of Older People

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Mahathir Bin Mohamad is currently the oldest living Prime Minister at the age of 92 heading the Government in Malaysia. In India, film celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Dilip Kumar, Asha Bhonsle, Waheeda Rehmaan, and Sharmila Tagore who’ve crossed the age line of 70 are still working and achieving well. KFC Company was founded at the age of 65 by Harland David Sanders.

People have found love, their dream jobs, set up successful business well beyond the age of sixty, also popularly known as the ‘Retirement Age’. And yet, elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world.

While the topic of elder abuse has started to gain visibility across the world, it remains one of the least investigated types of violence, and one of the least addressed in national development plans.

The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 66/127, observes June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). It represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering which is dealt by the older generation at our hands. On this day, activists around the world of all ages come together to march and demand the governments and bring awareness on issues concerning older citizens such as pension, security, rights, healthcare, and housing. Age Demands Action (ADA) led by Help Age International is a grassroots campaign to fight age discrimination. Campaign activities take place throughout the year.

With life expectancy having increased from about 37 years in 1940s to 67 years today in India, it has posed problems of its own kind. With this kind of an ageing scenario, there is pressure on all aspects of care for the older persons – be it financial, health or housing. With increasing progress and development taking place in the present and near future, the growing security and addressing the needs of older persons in India is very visible. Increase in lifespan also results in chronic disabilities creating a need for assistance required by the older person to manage chores as simple as the carried out in daily life.

Indian society lays high importance on providing care and protection for parents and elderly. Withering of joint family system has contributed to the challenges faced by elderly. Nowadays they are forced to live alone and are exposed to various kinds of problems such as lack of physical, social, emotional and financial support. Mental health problem in elderly people is almost a neglected topic in present times.

Age discrimination and ageism are tolerated across the world. Older women and men experience violations of their rights at family, community and institutional levels.

Older people face very specific threats to their rights in relation to age discrimination, for example, in access to health care, in employment, in property and inheritance rights, in access to information and education and in humanitarian responses. Older people also face particular forms of violence and abuse. They face particular threats to their rights in care settings and as careers themselves.

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 is a legislation enacted in 2007, initiated by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India to provide more effective provision for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens. This Act makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents, by monthly allowance. This Act also provides simple, speedy and inexpensive mechanism for the protection of life and property of the older persons.

GRAVIS an NGO in India, the affiliate of Help Age International, has taken considerably significant steps for the older sections of society in rural Rajasthan and are still campaigning and taking steps to improve the situation.

Case studies of intervening in rural households and providing them economic benefits such as providing livestock, helping with orchard gardening, building water conservation reservoirs, have significantly brought noted positive changes in the society. Families are remaining intact, since, members are made to realize that older people are an asset and not a burden to the family economy. Along with monetary benefits, skills are also being taught to the elderly people such as veterinarian  services, self health care, and first aid so that new ways of economies are explored and people of all strata are benefitted from it. With a new recognition and confidence, the elderly people are included in the society, reducing the rates of loneliness and depression and significant hand in decision making with their representation in the Gram Panchayat.

On an individual level, you and anyone around you can take their own steps to making this world a better place for the older/elderly people of our society.

  1. Adopt a Grandparent!

Take responsibility of an old person around your house or at an old age home and make them feel loved and wanted. They have experiences, skills and stories of a lifetime worth treasuring.

  1. Donation

Donation, big or small, of any kind, goes a long way. Your donation could provide them a warm blanket on a cold winter day, or the gift of vision after a medical treatment of eye disease.

  1. Kindness Pays Off

Invite old people to your house for a dinner or go spend your holidays with them. Being kind is the nicest attribute and just providing respect and security to the elders, makes them feel loved and wanted and helps them cope up with isolation and loneliness.

  1. Volunteer

The world could do with all sorts of heroes. Spend your time in a valuable way and put your expertise to use to make lives of people around us better. Volunteering at Old Age Homes or campaigning for the rights of elderly people are some things in which you can help the older section of the society.

  1. Livelihood Support

Old people just retiring from the workforce can still be an asset to the economy. Your help in aiding them to set up their own shop, business, and enterprise can help them earn a livelihood and provide them financial security, as well as be an asset to you for your own economic benefits.

More insight is needed and much more can be achieved on this campaign. Older people enjoy the same universal rights just as much as everyone else. Let ageism not be a deterring factor for the growth of a nation. New challenges need to be addressed by protecting the Fundamental Rights of everyone, equally.

Kashish Kalwani

Volunteer at GRAVIS

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