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Sriram Balasubramanian
Tuesday , October 02, 2012 at 16 : 31

Elderly people's plight in India


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The International day for elderly people was celebrated across India yesterday. It was an occasion to reflect on the status of the elderly in India and how they have been take care of by both the state and the individuals. Even a glance at the statistics, leaves one not only perplexed but alarmed at the state of the elderly in India. On Gandhi Jayanti, it is pertinent to ask where are the Gandhian ideas in us?

It is expected, according to the World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision, that the number of elderly people in the country is likely to increase to 320 million by 2050. This is expected to increase from 88 million people in 2009. The population of elderly is expected to increase by 360 percent from 2000 to 2050. The latest report from Health Age India states that one in three elderly people are abused in the country. In addition, the report also states that 50 percent of the abuse comes within the family and in 56 percent of the cases, the abuse was from the son. In one of the leading metros, only 52.7 percent of children assist their elderly parents during sickness. The number of old age homes have exponentially increased across the country and more importantly, there are large number of elderly people in the country who can neither go to an old age home nor live in peace within their homes. Do they deserve such treatment?

In a rapidly materialistic society, parents seem to have become liabilities and not assets. The modern urban population is so consumed with accumulation of their own personal needs; there is neither time nor space for them to share with their parents. In most cases, the intent seems to be there on the children but the priorities are skewed, giving preference to social stigmas and compulsions. Since society has set money as a benchmark for everything, that is the only thing that seems to be the barometer for a lot of young adults. These are cases that have lower priorities for parents in their day to day activities. However, the cases of abuse are to, put it simply, appalling.

The statistics show that one in 3 is abused among the aged population. How despicable is that to even read? Gratitude seems to be thrown into the dustbin and by these numbers; there is a trend to suggest that their presence is a major liability to the children in today's world. There are large number of cases in which parents are abused for family wealth and ancestral property. Make no mistake, this is not only the younger generation, this includes the generation that is in their late 40's or 50's who are architects of this mess that you see. If the mid age generation sets such a benchmark, what about the younger ones? At the root of these issues is an inability to handle economic growth with equanimity and grace.

As much as we have liberalized economically, our systems are not in place that can support the elderly. Neither the state is willing to provide them support nor are individuals willing to support. Unlike developed economies, which have structured old age recuperation mechanisms, we don't have anything of that sort. There is no major plan to deal with senior citizens and the families, based on the statistics, seem to be abdicating their responsibilities. While it is important that everyone works in the family, isn't it also equally important to ensure the elderly are taken care of in an appropriate manner? Shouldn't someone in the family assist either financially or physically to ensure they are taken care of properly?

Having said all this, I have to acknowledge that there are families who do take care of their parents and elderly with great care. This is something that is inherent in a large number of families that I have personally seen. However, as much as I would hate to believe the numbers, the facts seems to be startling with regards to how the elderly are neglected by society at large. It is high time the state brings about policies that assist the elderly in a more large scale manner and it is imperative that the children of the elderly don't discard them like perishable commodities. The older generation is the source of all the comfort that the younger generation has, it is their hard work and values that have propelled the citizens to what they are today.

Sometimes, despite my optimism, I do wonder whether we do follow what people like Gandhi had preached. Looking at the state of elderly in the country, especially in educated urban India, some of Gandhi's ideas seem to have disappeared out of the balcony.

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More about Sriram Balasubramanian

Sriram Balasubramanian is a Journalist, voracious reader, avid Blogger, social enthusiast and a believer in excellence not mediocrity. With an inherent passion towards journalism and writing, he believes in playing the "Straight Drive" all the time. Besides this, he has a MS in Engineering Management and has played Chess for Singapore.

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