World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2020: There are laws to help elderly get their rights
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this year assumes greater significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have advised the elderly - people above 60 - to be more vigilant about taking precautions against the deadly virus as they are more susceptible to it.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, ill-treatment of older people has increased significantly as the pandemic spread. The WHO and UN-linked organisations have called for an urgent action plan, to tackle the abuse of older people.
The abuse of older persons can be of various kinds. It may physical, verbal, sexual, financial or even grave neglect by family members. The WHO defines abuse of the older people as: "a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person".
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, observed every year on June 15, was started by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) in 2006. In 2011, the United Nations adopted it as a designated day for prevention of abuse of the older people.
Until recently, the older people would scarcely be vocal about abuse by family members including children because of fear and taboo.
Abuse of older people in society is preventable and each one of us has to be aware of the tell-tale signs. Cuts and bruises, malnourishment, poor hygiene, confusion and anxiety and sudden reclusiveness are some of the prominent signs. There have been cases of institutional neglect and abuse in homes for the elderly also. If we notice any of these signs it can be reported to NGOs, working for the elderly, and the government agencies.
Noting that neglect, verbal abuse and isolation are the three top forms of abuse that elderly suffer from, Sonali Sharma of Helpage India said, "it has been seen that the main abusers are their own children... there is a law (Maintenance and Welfare of Senior Citizens Act, 2007), under which, if children who do not look after parents can be jailed. So there is a legal tool that can be used by the elderly and we sensitize them to use it to protect themselves."