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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ELDER ABUSE ESSAY 1st Best: Role of Civil Society and Government by Dr.P.V.Vaidyanathan

On the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 15th June 2009, Silver Inning Foundation (SIF), a dedicated organization for senior citizens and their family members hosted Essay Competition on ELDER ABUSE.SIF invited an Essay on "Elder Abuse: Role of Civil Society and Government ".

Following is First Best Essay:


Man, by nature, is a violent creature. Over thousands of years of evolution and socialization he has been conditioned and has learnt to suppress his violence. In day to day life, most human beings behave normally and will even endorse non-violence. But when they come under stress, or when they get angry or greedy, most humans resort to violence---which can be verbal or physical. This violence is seen daily---at home, in offices on the roads, between two groups, communities, religions and nations. Any violence is usually directed at people who are weaker than us; and it is usually the two extremes of age, namely children and elders who, being physically and mentally weak, become easy targets of abuse. Elders are usually physically and mentally weak, can’t defend themselves, and become easy targets for abuse. Before doing something about this problem, let us see how it occurs, for only from understanding a problem can solutions come about.

Elder abuse is somewhat a new phenomenon, in our country. Traditionally, elders have always been respected for their wisdom and maturity. It is a normal custom in our country to bow down or prostrate, when one meets an elder person. An elder person is always addressed with a lot of reverence, love and respect. In every family function, old people occupy an important place, and people usually used to ask their opinions and their wishes. But all this is changing, thanks to a fast paced life, driven by consumerism and greed. More and more youngsters have started showing disrespect to elders. They consider elders to be a burden, and treat them badly. The joint family setup, where a large number of family members stayed under one roof and helped, tolerated and accepted each other is slowly going away. Intolerance and inability to adjust to others has made most youngsters move away from their joint families and have made them set up nuclear families. This means that elders have to fend for themselves. If they can’t, and they choose to live with the youngsters, they might be subject to verbal and physical abuse.

Today’s youngsters are a much stressed lot, as compared to the younger generation that existed three or four decades ago. The youngsters are well educated, which itself should make them understand the problems of elders. But this is not so. Along with education the desire for a better life, more luxuries, more space and more independence have all come together to make them highly individualistic and intolerant. They don’t want any advice from their elders and don’t want any form of interference. While some youngsters manage to keep a balance between their relationships with their spouses and their parents, many are not able to. In the resulting imbalance, they often lash out at their parents and other elders in the family. Elders, by their very nature and due to the fears and insecurity of old age, tend to be particular and persistent. They worry about the younger generation and want them to do well in life. But all their good intentions are often taken as interference and high handedness, with the result that the younger generation gets angry with the elders. They feel that elders should take care of themselves as much as possible, and should stop dictating terms and harassing the youngsters. Huge communication and generation gaps exist, between the elders and youngsters, and this often leads to youngsters venting their anger against the seniors.

THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND GOVERNMENT

Youngsters should try and understand the mind of the elders, what worries and anxieties they have, what fears they have, what they want from the youngsters etc. An atmosphere of consensus and cooperation rather than one of confrontation should be adopted by both parties. The elders and youngsters should not think of each other as enemies or competitors, but rather as partners in a joint venture. Any difference of opinion should be sorted out by discussions and finding peaceful solutions and not by accusing each other, blaming each other, or by belittling each other. Ultimately, everyone has an ego, and it is ego problems that are at the root of elder’s abuse. Obviously, any problem involving two parties cannot be solved only from one side, and both youngsters and elders should cooperate, and try to make each other’s lives peaceful.

The Government too should pass laws which any abuse of elder punishable with stiff punishments. Already, there are laws in place which protect senior citizens, if their children abandon them. These laws need to be strictly implemented. Also, newer laws which give more comprehensive protection to senior citizens need to be enacted. The Government should also spend more funds in building more ashrams and residences where senior citizens who are being abused or who have been disowned by their children can be housed and fed, free of charge. Today, there are a lot of old age homes where many old people go. The emphasis should be on building more such free homes with all modern amenities and facilities, so that elders, who might be unhappy or uncomfortable with their children, or elders who do not have anyone to take care of them can easily shift into these homes, temporarily or permanently. Like crimes against women, special cells need to be set up in every police station dealing with crimes against elders and elder abuse. The Government also needs to set up more counseling centers where elders and their children can come together and sit across the table with counselors and solve their problems openly and in a peaceful, non-violent manner.

All of us in this world are God created human beings, with equal rights and duties. If we treat each other as human beings without bringing our personalities, status, money, power struggles and ego into the picture, it should not be difficult to put an end to all confrontations between the older and younger generations.

Dr.P.V.Vaidyanathan: vaidyanathan.pv@gmail.com

3 comments:

vyasa said...

Excellent. I liked the last sentence of your essay. Government, apart from making more laws as appropriate, and funding Old Age Homes,- as you have stated - should also ask NGOs to take up sensitization programs for youngsters in Schools by funding them.

rajan said...

Brilliant piece. The middle aged and the youth of today seem to forget that they too would be labelled 'elder' some day. Unfortunately, almost everyone today is caught up in materialistic rat race making them forget the possibility of such a reality.

We cannot depend on the government to take care of all problems that the society creates. Unfortunately, our society can function smoothly only when there is some police surveying its people. Perhaps, therein lies the reason for the government to enact laws.

The joint family system of India, which had large number of elders, was once a role model for the rest of the world. Today, there is a fear that the nuclear family will turn to be atomic!

Dr. Rajan T.D., MD, DVD, DNB
Specialist in Skin & Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Samrock Apts., 1st flr, Juhu Lane,
Near Shoppers Stop, Andheri West,
Mumbai 400058, India
Tel: clinic: 0091-22-66982747 / 26705557
Email: rajan.td@gmail.com

Medical alert said...

Excellent essay lets start teaching the youth too treat their elders with respect.

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