As per the analysis of census 2011 data, the population of older persons in India has already crossed the unique mark of 100 million. The study records that with increasing popularity of nuclear family system and continuous migration, elderly people are constantly being marginalized and isolated, particularly in urban areas. Emotional, social, financial, medical and legal security structure is getting diluted, leading to a continuous denial of their human rights. Rita focuses on the human rights issue of the elders, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Based on a study by Agewell Foundation Research and Advocacy Centre, living conditions of older persons have changed remarkably with an ever-changing socio-economic and demographic scenario across the country. Today, with the advancement of medical science, along with a better standard of life and overall development in the country, not only is the number of old people growing rapidly, their life expectancy is also going up every year. As per the analysis of census 2011 data, the population of older persons in India has already crossed the unique mark of 100 million.
The study records that with increasing popularity of nuclear family system and continuous migration, elderly people are constantly being marginalised and isolated, particularly in urban areas. Emotional, social, financial, medical and legal security structure is getting diluted, leading to a continuous denial of their human rights.
What are Human Rights?
Human rights are rights people are entitled to simply because they are human beings. Older men and women have the same rights as anyone else. Our human rights do not change as we grow older. However, there are no visible human rights for older persons under international law today. In absence of family support and care, an older person is experiencing an increasing lack of security. In highly industrialized as well as commercialized areas of the country, most older people find themselves isolated and marginalized as their old age related needs remain unattended. Despite a growing share of the population, the elderly are not getting their due space in society.
Human Rights of Older Persons
- Right to life shall be protected by law
- Right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment
- Right to liberty and personal security
- Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing
- Civil rights and obligations
- The right to respect for home, family and private life
- The right to freedom of thought and conscience
- The right not to be discriminated against age
- The right to property – everyone is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions
Interaction with Older Persons
The study found that people interact with older persons quite often but the interaction between the old and younger generations is not intimate because they don’t have strong family bonding. The ever increasing generation gap can be bridged through motivating close interaction between the generations. Younger generations seem to be more sensitive towards old age issues, but they don’t interact with them accordingly due to various factors.
Post Retirement Life in Old Age
Older persons are productive even after their retirement, but due to lack of post-retirement job opportunities, they remain unproductive throughout their remaining life. According to the study, people consider older persons to be a rich source of experience, knowledge, and wisdom but always doubt their performance. Due to increased life span, there is an urgent need for post-retirement income generational opportunities.
Classification of Older Persons
Older persons are treated as disadvantaged, marginalised section of society, same as disabled persons, beggars and drug addicts, which is very disrespectful and unfair to older persons.
Since old age is a natural phenomenon, they should be separately categorized with due respect and understanding for their age.
Sense of Insecurity in Old Age
Due to various reasons, majority of older persons have a sense of insecurity in old age, the study found. Breaking up of joint family system is the main cause of the misplaced sense of insecurity in old age.
Discrimination in Old Age
Age discrimination is common in the country, but older persons themselves hardly complain about age discrimination and treat it as common social practice. People have limited awareness about protection against age discrimination.
Older Persons as Custodian of Traditional Values
Older persons are custodians of traditional values but due to limited intergenerational interactions, they are often unable to transfer these values to younger generations.
Social Security in Old Age
Government policies and our social norms are not equipped to offer social security in old age. In India, the situation of social security schemes is very depressing. The government should focus on social security schemes, keeping in view of the fast increasing population of older persons. At the same time, there should be some arrangements in the society so that older persons can lead a secure life in old age.
Legal Provisions for Older Persons
The study found that awareness about legal provisions for older persons is increasing but people are still doubtful about the functioning of the judicial system. While the awareness about specific needs and rights of older persons is quite high, people find it practically impossible to translate their awareness into actual help/assistance to older persons.
Healthcare in Old Age
Older persons face many health related problems, but it is not easy and convenient for older people to undergo treatment and checkups at various hospitals and clinics in our country. According to the study, healthcare in old age is the most urgent area in which government and other stakeholders should work intensively.
Cases of elder abuse in India is on the rise but the elderly hardly complain about them. Family members take their elderly family members for granted and older persons don’t want to antagonise their family. There is a contradiction in the way people perceive older persons socially and at the family level. While the human rights of older persons are respected in the country, the situation is changing very fast and incidences of violation of human rights and elder abuse are on the rise.
Photos from the internet.
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Rita Bhattacharjee is a communications consultant with extensive experience in managing corporate and internal communications for companies across diverse industries, including non-profit organizations. She is the co-founder of Mission Arogya and Arogya HomeCare and has recently relocated from the US to India to channel her skills towards social entrepreneurship to increase awareness and reduce disparity in public health. She also writes poetry, some of which have been published in reputed international journals.