Safety of the Senior Citizens: Are We Failing?

Statistically Speaking…

Individuals of and above 60 years of age are considered to be the senior citizen, as per the law in India. The 2011 population census states that there are approximately 104 million people who are of the age 60 years or more; 53 million are females and  51 million are males. That was about 8.6% of the 2011 population. And, unsurprisingly, this amount is to increase by 2020.

This population chunk also happens to be a vulnerable group in the crime spectrum. That includes the physical and mental harassment that they face at the hands of those whom they consider to be their ‘family’. Also, they are technically more vulnerable when it comes to technological and cyber crimes. Be it by self exploration or by mistake, sometimes these experiences cost them a lot, and not just in monetary terms. Also, terminally ill people tend to have it worse. Some children do not even hesitate to brutally torture their parents. Cutting of social contact or sometimes, even the basic necessities is another common method of harassment. 

Now, hypothetically, someone might say why don’t the senior citizens live where they lived all their lives? That might maintain a comfortable sphere for them. Sounds a better option, right? But in reality, it is not so. Because, firstly, senior citizens, especially with a medical history, have a high probability of having a medical emergency. And due to various circumstances, they might not be in contact or ask anyone for help. And the next biggest reason is that they are soft targets for the fraudelants and robbery. 

The statistics regarding these crimes was provided in 2018  by the National Crime Records Bureau, a department under the Ministry of Home Affairs, for a study period of 2016-2018. According to these reports,in 2016, the number of registered crimes against senior citizens was 21410, in 2017 it was 22727 and in 2018 it was raised to 24349. This study was done considering an approximate population of 103.85 million. The rate of crime against senior citizens is recorded  to be 23.4%. In 2020, the rate has increased toa whooping  25%.These statistics are very alarming and show the ugly reflection of many truths of our society. 

On an international level, seven types of elder abuse are recognized: physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial abuse and self neglect. A rather large contribution to this increase is pointed towards material/ financial crimes in India . Relatives or children often try to obtain the property deeds from the senior citizens.The increasing value of the real estate sector provides a secure way of financial growth. Hence, younger generations try and invest their parents’ properties for monetary gains or even for loaning purposes. The senior citizens may face harassment and/ or neglect during or after the process of transferring the property. Also, financial cheating is also a rampant criteria under the crime category. 

Laws and Legalities

In accordance with ‘The Maintenance and Welfare  of Parents and Senior Citizens (amendment) Bill, 2019’ (which has filled up several loopholes that were present in the 2007 bill), the children might be directed to pay an amount to the parents per month as maintenance amount. The amount is fixed on the basis of standards of living and  earning of the senior citizen and the earning of the children. Abandonment of elders will lead to a 3-6 months imprisonment, or auto  fine of rs, 10,000 or both. Abuse charges also have the punishment. Under this bill, special provisions and criterias are created to standardize the care homes, home care services, healthcare and police protection. 

On the social front, various NGOs are coming up to actively tackle these problems. Toll free helpline numbers and forums give a good source to reach out for help. Public empathy and awareness is also increasing, which provides a very strong base to curb the crimes. For senior citizens living alone, it is advisable to keep up with the latest security products available in the market, and upgrade them from time to time. Also, some self defense equipments should be strategically kept spread throughout the house, which are also easily accessible for someone who knows where they are. Keeping too many valuable items might not be safe. Also,three four persons should be kept on speed dial and as much as it sounds unappealing/uncomfortable, especially for the older generation,it might be a good idea to try and keep the phone within reach. If possible, something should be installed on the front doors so that it is easy to check the person on the other side without fully exposing oneself and also not giving direct entry to the home.  Before employing or giving admission to any service provider, identity cards or valid personal documents should be checked.

As a society and as an individual, we have this responsibility to do whatever can be done. That includes looking out for the signs of neglect and abuse, enquiring the elders if any doubts arise and helping them to reach out to the proper authority, if the need arises. This problem can only be tackled through systematic dismantling of the notions that senior citizens are vulnerable.  

Dignity (Foundation) Helpline in 6 Cities :

  • Mumbai Dignity Helpline +91 22 6138 1111
  • Chennai Dignity Helpline +91 44 2621 0363
  • Kolkata Dignity Helpline +91 92323 82936 / +91 91635 09818
  • Bengaluru Dignity Helpline +91 96322 44568 / +91 97405 52261
  • Pune Dignity Helpline +91 88304 49043
  • Delhi Dignity Helpline +91 84483 17316

Helpage Toll-Free Elder Helpline Number: 1800-180-1253

Website References:

https://ncrb.gov.in/en/search/node/Senior%20Citizen?page=1

https://vikaspedia.in/social-welfare/senior-citizens-welfare/senior-citizens-status-in-india

https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/maintenance-and-welfare-parents-and-senior-citizens-amendment-bill-2019