TALK POINT: Tackling Elder Abuse in India – IN CONVERSATION WITH MS. ISHA SHARMA

Ms. Isha Sharma
General Secretary
Organisation for Youth and Elderly (OYE)

Q. According to World Health Organization, a 2017 study shows that 15.7 % of the elderly above 60 years have experienced some form of abuse. Can you elaborate on the issue of elder abuse in India and the work the organization for Youth and Elderly have done to mitigate it?

The Elderly community in India is subject to exploitation and abuse which may be physical, psychological, sexual or even financial. Neglect is also a form of abuse for the elderly. The elderly however are sometimes unable to identify behaviors or instances of abuse and even when they do recognize mistreatment, they are hesitant to speak of it either due to the fear of becoming burdensome to their children or because they often feel that they themselves are at fault.

The ‘Ashvaasan’ initiative of the Organization for the Youth and Elderly (OYE) aims to create awareness among the elderly community on the various issues they may face, be it common diseases of old age – dementia or Alzhiemer’s – economic instability or elderly abuse; and also provides avenues for aid.

We first carry out field research to identify the major issues faced by the elderly community, we then develop a plan of action and campaigns based on the issue faced, thereby following a need based approach in providing support to the elderly community.

We have a dedicated helpline and chat support for the elderly who are victims of abuse. At OYE we believe that to effectively provide aid to the elderly it is most essential to first listen.

Q. The elderly community is subject to different forms of abuse- physical, psychological, emotional and financial. What is financial abuse and how does it affect the victim of such abuse?

We believe that care begins at home however it is at home that the elderly community are most vulnerable to economic or financial abuse. There have been several instances of forgery of will, property mismanagement or even economic exploitation of the elderly. They even become susceptible to misinformation and are often misguided into making fraudulent investments.

Under such instances, victims of financial abuse become extremely fearful and are often helpless since they are unaware of avenues of redress; when they are aware, these avenues are inaccessible.

Most of the elderly who become victims of economic abuse, are completely unaware that they are being or have been abused. Identification is not possible if there is no awareness of the existence of perpetration of such abuse. Awareness is a pre-requisite for caution.

At ‘Ashvaasan’ we provide expert legal advice to the elderly who have to make investment decisions in order to ensure that they are protected from financial abuse, from their families, communities or corporations.

Q. According to WHO only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse have been reported. What are some of the factors which prevent the elderly who are victims of abuse from reporting their abuse? What are the remedies available to the elderly under instances of abuse? What can the youth do to ameliorate their condition?

The elderly community is deterred from reporting instances of abuse by a host of barriers which include the fear or threat to their own life, the fear of reporting-induced exemplification of abuse, the long, aggressive and cumbersome procedure involved in resolution or the fact of simply being unaware of avenues of aid.

Digital literacy is important for the elderly because this increases their access information and aid in times of dire need.

Most victims are of the opinion that they would rather spend the little time left in their life with their family or in their homes in peace, instead of spending their time and energy going for court hearings.

We at OYE, encourage the victims of elderly abuse to take legal action and provide support and guidance to them throughout the entire process. We make sure that they obtain the right information at the right time and educate them on the means to prevent and report abuse.

One of the major problems faced by the elderly in this increasingly digital world, is that they are not digitally savvy. Digital literacy is important for the elderly because this increases their access to information and aid in times of dire need.

Therefore, one thing that the youth can do for the elderly to make them more equipped to deal with and report instances of abuse, is to help them and teach them how to better use devices, how to access helplines, apps and other available aids.

Ms Isha Sharma is the General Secretary at the Organization for Youth and Elderly. OYE, as an NGO, stands out due its peculiarities & exquisite uniqueness that includes an additional effort of involving the massive youth population into its activities. Through its ongoing events and campaigns, OYE continues to triumph in earning a positive response from people of all age groups.

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