Elder Abuse

73% of Indian Youth Admit That Elder Abuse Exists

What turns a perfectly normal and healthy relationship into an abusive one in later years?

‘Elder Abuse’ an issue one often refrains from talking about or acknowledging that it exists. But, within the four walls and confines of one’s home, a dark reality pervades. Over the past few years HelpAge India has been conducting detailed surveys to understand this growing crime against India’s elders, by getting the elder perspective, their understanding and experiences. Shockingly, in 2014, half of India’s elderly (50%) surveyed reported experiencing abuse. 77% lived with their families.

The Abuser? – Their own child. The most common assumption that in old age the Son would be the main caregiver was completely shattered. The Son along with the Daughter-in-law turned out to be the primary abusers. Today’s Young Adults.

It was therefore now time to understand the mindset of the Young Adult – their perspective. Therefore, this year in 2015, HelpAge conducted an extensive 10 city survey among young working adults in the age bracket of 25 to 45 years, living with at least 1 elderly parent. Cities surveyed: Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Kanpur, Madurai. A sample size of 200 households were selected from 20 middle and upper middle localities in each city.

The survey hopes to ascertain what the youth think of Elder Abuse – does it at all happen, what makes it happen, who or what causes it and what can any of us do to help/prevent abuse.

Nationally, 73% of the youth admit that Elder Abuse exists. 42% feel that it is a problem of all developing societies, including India. 83% perceive that identifying Elder Abuse in the neighborhood is not difficult.

The youth experience of coming across ‘instances of Elder Abuse’ is as high as 32.5% among relatives, followed by 21% friends and 20% neighbors.

The Youth perception and elder reality is very different when it comes to who the abuser is. While 24% of the Youth perceive the Son as an abuser, the Elder experience blames the son in 59% of cases.

The daughter-in-law remains the primary abuser be it Youth Perception or Elder Reality.

The Abuser starts early. As per youth experience, the Abuser is in the age bracket of 18 to 34 primarily in the middle income households.

72.4% of the youth feel that the topmost form of abuse they have come across in their experience is ‘Using Abusive Language and talking rudely to an elder’ followed by 43.1%, who feel it is giving the elder ‘the silent treatment, isolation and emotional abuse.’

Delhi alone beats the national average in ‘Using Abusive Language and talking rudely to an elder’ with 77% Youth stating it to be the most common form of abuse they have come across.

Nationally, ‘Property and inheritance disputes’ emerges as the main reason for abuse at 53.2%. But what is interesting to note, is that 35.7% feel that ‘Attitudinal and relationship issues’ is also an important reason.

While financial reasons are the most perceived factor causing Elder Abuse, the youth are stressing only behavioral solutions for families to prevent abuse, with the top measure being ‘Family spending adequate time with the elders (32%)’ followed by ‘Elders opinions given due importance (29%)’.

As measures that ‘Elders’ should take to prevent abuse 67.5% of the respondents at an all-city level said that elders should stay social and active and 31.5% said that they should keep their finances organized.

Most of the abusers were rated by respondents as of sound mind as well as sound health, so clearly Elder Abuse was intentional and voluntary.

86.9% Youth advocate living in large joint families as a measure to prevent Elder Abuse, in today’s social scenario of a rising graph of nuclear families.

Nationally, nearly 60% Youth are willing to take direct action if they came across a case of abuse by talking to the abuser asking them to change their behavioural pattern and talking to the abused, asking them to fight back. Yet there are cities such as Delhi where 92% are not willing to intervene, followed by Chennai with 64% and Hyderabad with 45%.

The report highlights the biggest gap of all in the reality and existence of elder abuse, which is that – If the youth are so sensitive to the issue of elder abuse then why is Elder Abuse so widely prevalent, with 50% elders claiming so and holding the Youth of today responsible for their condition? A question that still needs an answer.

Click here for full report “Elder Abuse: The Indian Youth Speaks Out”

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