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Senior citizens neglected and depressed...
July 02, 2004 11:32 IST
V R Yadav and his wife, retired government officials who stay alone, have removed all the sharp edged showpieces from their home after reading how ivory tusk was used as a weapon in the recent murder of an aged couple in Delhi.
The Yadav couple is not alone in this regressive child-like reaction; rather they are just one among the thousands of senior citizens in India who lead a secluded existence.
Statistics reveal that out of about 77 million senior citizens in India, as many as 90% have no social security and are emotionally depressed. Apart from brutality and neglect, the nation does not offer much to those who age.
"The era of granny's tales and grandpa's mathematics lessons is long dead and aged people in our society are now treated as an old piece of furniture, often thrown away or pushed aside in a corner," says Himanshu Rath, founder of Age Well, an NGO.
"It often happens that the physical aspect of their security overshadows the emotional deprivation and psychological alienation that the aged of this country experience. Huge lists of precautions are drawn. However, not a thought is spared about the emotional turmoil and stress they go through with every such incident," says Dr Jitender Nagpal, consultant psychiatrist, Vidya Sagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science (VIMHANS).
Besides, the stark media description of dead bodies, spectacles lying shattered on the floor and wooden sticks in the corner have a devastating psychological impact on the elderly. "The graphic details of the weapon used in the crime and blood stains being wiped from the floor stab the elderly over and over again," adds Rath.
Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution specifies that the State shall, within the limits of economic capacity, provide assistance to the elderly.
The National Policy on Older Persons announced by the government in 1999 mandates State support for the elderly with regard to health care, shelter and welfare. Also, social security has been made the concurrent responsibility of the central and state governments.
"When an elderly couple gets butchered, the media and police draw a huge list of Dos-and-Don'ts but a week later it is back to square one. The spate of brutal incidents has shed light on the level of crime and apathy that riddles our society," says Major General (Retd) Indrajit S Dhillion, Director General, Helpage India.
Such is the urge to talk that most elderly couples throw open their doors to anyone who comes knocking.
"The need to communicate and reach out is so severe that most elder couples do not mind even inviting strangers for a cup of coffee. This is nothing but manifestation of their sheer helplessness, where the elderly are trying to ensure that the umbilical cord with the world outside is not snapped," says Dr Nagpal.
Experts believe that safety may not necessarily be assured by constables knocking at their door daily or an extra lock at the main gate.
The Indian psyche does not take kindly to a man in uniform knocking at the door. "The elderly in most cases do not prefer the cops to intervene, even if it is for their safety," says Rath.
A possibly solution is for society to be sensitised to ensure that loneliness does not become the sole companion of the aged.
More reports from Delhi
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