Serving the old in wooden bowls

The old man had a tear in his eyes sometimes, when the son and daughter -in -law saw him eat alone. Grandpa had shaky hands and broke few cutleries and heard rude admonitions from his son and his wife. The grandson saw it all in silence and played with wooden scraps. On being asked about his activities by his father, the child innocently replied that he was making a wooden bowl for his ma and paa to eat in, when they grew old.

– The wooden bowl

The story is an age old child’s tale narrated in classrooms during moral science lessons. The story holds a deep meaning and voices out nonchalance meted out by family, society and the community at large, towards people who are wrinkled and ageing. On the event of, ‘World Elder Abuse Awareness Day,’ as celebrated on the 15th of June, since 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization; the story of the wooden bowl, needs to be recalled and narrated.

The world is growing at a fast pace and everything seems to be trained to respond in a second’s pace. The younger and the working class gentry always seem to be busy roting the limitations of a busy life and clicking on social apathies surrounding the global premises. In all this hustle and hurry, the elderly seem to have been left out of the race and pushed into corners of oblivion and torture. The UN report starkly points out, “The global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double from 542 million in 1995, to about 1.2 billion by 2025 with around 4 to 6 percent of elderly people have experienced some form of maltreatment at home.”

A similar report by HelpAge India, 2015, quotes, “…Out of the oldest old, 71 percent stay with their sons while 9.8 percent stay with their daughters. Disturbingly, nearly 80.6 percent of the respondents in this age group admitted to having faced abuse with verbal abuse, disrespect and neglect cited as the major type of abuse.”

The elderly form a delicate layer of our homes and are storehouses of knowledge, wisdom and experience, to insult and humiliate the elderly is an act of neglect, abuse and exploitation. A study conducted by Agewell Foundation with 3400 senior citizens spanning across 323 districts, named ‘The cause and effect of elder abuse in Indian homes and sharp focus on the needs and rights of old people,’ throws light on:

  • 65% of the old people are poor with no source of known income

  • 9% have been physically harassed or assaulted

  • 13% were denied access to basic rights

  • 37% cited misbehavior and ill treatment

The study establishes the grounds of exploitation, lack of socio- economic and political security faced by the elderly. Ironically, the roots of the civilization are facing maltreatment by the growing branches in an age which revives and reaffirms its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals over the next 15 years. Ending neglect, abuse and violence against older people is vital if we are to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and fulfill their underlying pledge to leave no one behind; as stated by, the UN General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon.

The report namely, “Situation Analysis of the Elderly in India” by the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, GOI extends an appeal to the state governments, autonomous bodies, civil society organizations and the Corporations to aid the formulation and implementation of programs, policies and plan of action to prevent:

  • Neglect

  • Abuse

  • Exploitation

of the elderly and help relocate them in the mainstream structure of secure lives and access to basic needs within the framework of Human Rights.

India has been hit by an increased percentage of the elderly in its total population proportion, as reported by the Ministry of Statistics in the year 2016. ‘The number of citizens over the age of 60 jumped 35.5 percent of 7.6 crore in 2001 to 10.3 crore in 2011.’ The number of elderly Indian citizens account for 8.5 percent of the country’s 127 crore population’.

Coming to a conclusion, Fiinovation would want to request individuals, families, communities, government and the corporations to come together and help build a world for the senior citizens- enriched with social security, respectable social role, recognition building and availability of an ocean of opportunities- to cater to the elderlies socio- economic and political needs. Let us make ‘known’ the extent of abuse and maltreatment faced by the elderly, let us help empower the elderly to lead a life of dignity and wellbeing. The elderly are the roots on which the branches sprout and flowers bloom, to have a healthy and a strong tree of life, it is important to nurture and support the aging roots, which are trying to hold on tight.

By – Meghna Chatterji

Media & Communications

Fiinovation

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