DISTRESS CALLS BY SENIOR CITIZENS TO HELPLINE HAVE GONE UP; ELDERLY SUFFER IN SILENCE AS STIGMA STOPS THEM FROM COMPLAINING
Bangalore doesn’t know how to treat its elderly. This unsettling revelation might come as a rude shock considering the city earned the sobriquet pensioners’ paradise long ago—but this dirty picture is the truth, and there are figures to confirm this.
A helpline run by Nightingale’s Trust—set up to address the needs of the elderly in the city—has received over 89,373 calls over the past 10 years.
“Every month, we get about 40 calls from senior citizens. At least 10-15 of these calls are distress
calls, asking for help,” said Swathi Bhandary, a coordinator with the helpline.
Most of these distress calls are with regard to tenants harassing elderly citizens or related to some kind
of financial fraud. Bhandary said there have been cases of family harassment, but these do not come in
“Family harassment cases do come in. Although the numbers are low, we fear that few cases mean there could be more.” Bhandary said family members do not come out in public when
they are harassed as there is a huge stigma attached to it.
“Elders ask how they can complain about their own children. What will society think of them if they do,” she said. She added that most people do not know whom to complain to.
“There is hardly any awareness about helplines and parents do not want to register a police complaint unless they reach a breaking point,” she said. In fact, even when they do complain, more often than not they ask for advice and counselling and do not want to register a written complaint.
Statistics available with the helpline confirm this. In the last three years, written complaints have not seen any sharp rise. The number of complaints registered in 2009-10 stood at 320, 278 in 2010-11 and 219 in 2011-12 respectively. However, the number of distress calls in the last three years has spiked: 6,720 in 2009-10, 6,950 in 2010-11 and 7,814 in 2011-12 (including calls for information).
According to Shiv Kumar, convenor of the helpline, there has been a definite increase in the number of verbal complaints. “Every year, there is an increase of at least 20-30% with regard to verbal complaints.”
Shiv Kumar said the best way to resolve cases is through dispute resolution, considering the fact that elderly are unlikely to give written complaints.Kumar said Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) could be of major help, but they need to be trained to make sure they act as mediators and do not take sides
It’s more than an irony. It’s, in fact, tragic that the city once known as a pensioner’s paradise today ranks first when it comes to abuse of the elderly.
A recent study on the state of the elderly in nine cities conducted by HelpAge India found that abuses are reported the highest in Bangalore (44 per cent), compared to the national average of 22 per cent. The other eight cities in the survey were Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Chennai, Patna and Hyderabad.
Though 84 per cent of the elderly surveyed in Bangalore are married (against a national average of 60.3 per cent), 68 per cent live with their son(s) and 18 per cent with their daughters. The national figures are 71.6 and 12.5 per cent respectively. Close to half (45 per cent) of the senior citizens are classified as ‘unskilled workers’ and 26 per cent ‘skilled’. Another 22 per cent are homemakers. Only 21 per cent remain involved in any kind of economic activity.
Remittances from children is the main source of income for most (34 per cent) against a national average of 54.6 per cent. Pension comes in next with 33 per cent. Compared to other cities, people living on pensions as against remittances from their children still remains on the higher side.That’s where the ‘pensioners’ paradise’ sobriquet ends. An overwhelming proportion (68 per cent) live in rented accommodations against a national average of only 29.8 per cent).
HelpAge asked elders about their understanding of elder abuse. The category that came on top was ‘showing disrespect’, followed by ‘physical abuse’ and ‘emotional abuse’. And, whatever the perception of abuse, it is worsening. Three of every four elderly felt that abuses had gone up in the previous three years.
Bangalore also tops in ‘emotional abuse’ being reported as the worst form of abuse they encounter – a full hundred per cent.
The national average is only a paltry 25.8 per cent. One of the reasons for this seemingly anomalous figure, a HelpAge official said, is that the reporting of cases is probably higher in Bangalore than elsewhere. Nine out of ten elderly say ‘verbal abuse’ is the second most prevalent way of abusing elders.
There’s rampant physical abuse too. Among those who experienced this, 56.2 per cent complained of
beating, and 50 per cent of restricted movements within the house. Bangalore is also high in economic
abuse. Two in three said these came in the form of illegal taking over of their property by their children. The same proportion also spoke of their personal belongings being taken away from them. And where this abuse comes from? It – hold your breath – actually begins at home. Roughly 57 per cent said it came from their son(s), and 20.4 per their daughters and sons-in-law.
Yet, there’s no escape. Some 77.2 per cent ‘did not do anything’ after an abuse. Those elsewhere are better placed with an average of 53.4 per cent. There aren’t many around to talk to either. Less than 5 per cent discuss the problem with anyone in Bangalore.Elsewhere it is 25 per cent.Not that such moves pay off either. All those who complained to the police said that they had to spend a lot of money both on lawyers as well as bribes to the police, besides the situation becoming aggravated thereafter. The paradise, probably has been lost.