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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

India starts to cope with ageing millions- by Siddhartha Kumar.

Nov 22, 2006,

New Delhi - Sitting in the winter sun at an old-age home in Tilak Vihar in west Delhi, 71-year-old Veermati Devi is recovering from the shock of being thrown out of her home by her son and daughter-in-law.

'They were tormenting and harassing me all these months, saying I was useless and there wasn't enough space in the flat for me,' she says bitterly.

'It was better to take shelter at bus-stops than to suffer indignity...I don't want to go home now,' said Devi who endures a penniless existence in her twilight years.

Through the centuries Indian society has stressed deference and respect for elders, taking care of ones parents in their old age and the importance of living in a joint-family, however, there has been a perceptible erosion of these values as the country modernizes and embraces individualism and consumerism.

Perhaps more alarming are the frequent media reports on mental and physical abuse of parents by their children.

Manju Varshney who manages old-age homes says a majority of her clients were shown the door by their children - many before the ink dried on the transfer of property into their name.
'Some even suffered physical assault and were pushed, shoved or slapped in their own homes,' she said.

Down south in Bangalore city, Subodh Keskar, 66 was left in a lurch when his only son left him to take up a job in an IT firm in the US three years ago.

The Keskars were relatively fortunate in having found a 'family' in Non-Resident Indians Parents' Association (NRIPA), a support group having over 250 members, many of whom were struggling with the 'empty nest syndrome.'

'We find understanding and emotional support as all of us face the same predicament' Keskar said.

Forces of migration and urbanization are upsetting the Indian value systems as thousands of young Indians emigrate to Western countries or to other Indian cities for better employment opportunities, resulting in the mushrooming need of support groups.

'More such groups are needed as a number of parents have similar issues. After requests from different places, we are considering forming an all-India body and associations in a dozen cities,' NRIPA founder Ambuja Narayan said.

Lack of financial security, 90 per cent of India's estimated 80 million seniors over 60 have no social security, and healthcare are just a few of the issues facing India's growing elderly population.

'We seem to be staring at a big crisis as after 2025, the number of elderly will increase from 8 per cent of the population to 15 per cent of the population,' said Mathew Cherian Chief Executive Officer, HelpAge, the biggest NGO working for the aged in the country.

The main trends of the aging population in South Asia are the greater concentrations of seniors in rural areas, impeding delivery of services, and the feminization of the elderly, according to Ghazy Mujahid, advisor to the UN Population Fund.

Women will shortly constitute over 52 per cent of the population above 60, in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, a daunting number in places where few women are financially independent.

'There is a general disaffection toward the old which should change. We need to urgently focus on areas like nutrition, healthcare and spiraling costs of medicine, tax benefits and social security especially in the rural areas,' said HelpAge's Cherian.

All these factors are forcing the government to wake up and face the situation.
GK Singh, Deputy Secretary, Social Justice Ministry, said under the Integrated Project for Older Persons, the government will construct an additional 340 old-age homes for the destitute-elderly, 220 day-care centres and 60 mobile medicare units across the country.

He added that the government will soon introduce the 'Welfare and Maintenance of Parent and Senior Citizens' legislation to protect the elderly.

Children and grandchildren not taking care of their elders could be jailed and aggrieved parents can approach tribunals to claim maintenance.

The legislation would also provide for the right of parents to revoke the transfer of property to their children in cases where the latter does not look after them.

Seniors, however, are angry that the decision-makers have neglected them far too long.
'What is needed is political will. The elderly lack pressure groups and lobbies,' said octagenarian Kishan Lal Tandon. 'It is ironic that though most of the Indian lawmakers and politicians are over 60 years, they have such a callous attitude towards the aged,' he added.
© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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1 comment:

Santanu said...

can someone give me the names and contact details of any AD support groups in Calcutta?
my ma is down with it and I am the sole care-giver. I need support. I have to maintain my office too.

write to me at