June 18, 2011

INDIA: Elderly voice an age-old problem

BANGALORE, Karnataka / Deccan Herald / Abuse / June 18, 2011

‘We are retired but not tired’, read one of the many placards held by a clutch of senior citizens outside Lalbagh Gate on the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day earlier in the week.

Around 100 elderly people from voluntary organisation, Nightingales Medical Trust (NMT), converged on the spot to prove their point and make themselves heard in the “Worst City for Elders in India”.

Ramakantha, 60, and Saroja, 73, are victims of elder abuse. They, like 50 other elders, come daily to Sandhya Kirana daycare centre to provide computer learning programmes, yoga classes, free health checkups, mid-day meals and some income-generating work.

Ramakantha has been suffering from blood pressure and low blood sugar levels, and nobody at home takes care of her.

“My son shouts at me and abuses me every night. And my husband is married to someone else, and has three children. So, I get depressed when I have to go back to my own son. I like it here.”

Saroja is a mother of two sons and a daughter. “My children abused me before, over division of land. Even after splitting, they continue to abuse me for not getting a bigger share.”

Saroja, who is upset over her children wanting to demolish the old house, feels emotionally attached to the dwelling place. “But they are still my children. I will continue to treat them like my children,” she says.

The cases of these women are nothing new to the city. “Bangalore is suffering badly from this problem created by urbanisation. More daycare centres should be encouraged, as elderly people need attention of their own children, and not loneliness. Old age homes do not help in the concept of joint families,” said M S Savithri, Director, Department of Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens.

NMT has been able to survive 14 years, thanks the indefatigable work of its founder Dr Radha S Murthy.

Her policy of “making sure families stay intact” has worked in favour of many elderly people shunned by their own families.

Along with 50 schoolchildren and some IBM employees, the gathering of elderly citizens walked from Lalbagh to Sandhya Kirana at Shantinagar to “celebrate age”.

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