Nearly 1 in every 2 elderly people faced abuse in public spaces across India and Delhi was among the least abusive cities, a report by HelpAge India has claimed. According to the report, ‘How India treats its elderly’, 23 per cent of the elderly in the national capital faced abuse as against 70 per cent in Bangalore, which recorded the maximum abuse, followed by 60 per cent in Hyderabad, 59 per cent in Guwahati, 52 per cent in Kolkata, 49 per cent in Chennai and 33 per cent in Mumbai. The national average was 44 per cent. “We had conversations with more than 4,000 people in different cities across the country. They have shared their stories of discrimination in society. From pushing and ignoring to misbehaving with them, there have been horrific incidents which elderly people have gone through,” says Manjira Khurana, the Country Head-Communication and Advocacy of HelpAge India. Noting that mistreatment of the elderly in public spaces was “inexcusable”, the report that was released here today, also features first-hand accounts of the rampant abuse faced by senior citizens in public transport, hospitals and malls. Sixteen per cent of those who travel by public bus mention incidents of misbehaviour by bus conductor, while 17 per cent of mall staff is reported to have behaved badly with the elderly. Columnist and author Santosh Desai termed the findings of the data “alarming”, and said that improving the behaviour of people toward the elderly was one of the primary steps towards achieving a progressive society.
“The most disturbing thing is that we have made an image of ourselves that we respect elders. Whereas the reality on the ground is somewhat different. You can’t quote the growth of GDP as the only contributing factor to make a progressive society. Improvement of people plays an important role and unfortunately this is not happening,” said Desai. Quoting several people who feel threatened to even move out of their homes due to experiences of abuse, the report notes how many feel stepping out as a “necessary evil”. An awareness drive among the youth was also conducted. “During our campaigns we talked to youth about this problem. They agree that they are aware of such incidents but most of them refrain from intervening when they come across such situations,” Khurana said.
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Talking about the importance of the research report, Mathew Cherian, CEO of HelpAge India, says, “Elderly abuse is a sensitive topic. Over the past few years we have been studying and researching elderly abuse within closed doors of one’s home. “We have surveyed the elders as well as the youth perspective. This year we have moved out of the home into the broader area of public space.”