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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
We need a new convention to protect the rights of older persons:Susan Somers of INPEA
Susan B. Somers General Secretary of (INPEA) The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc., (INPEA) ; UN NGO Coordinator for INPEA and Attorney at The Somers Law Firm, NY,USA recently visited Mumbai on Invitation of Sailesh Mishra, Founder President of Silver Inning Foundation – a not for profit organization dedicated for the cause of Senior Citizens.
Susan Somers was at Nepal for one month to give training for Care giver for Senior Citizens organizations, the project was funded by the Nepal government.
During her way back to NY she specially came to Mumbai to understand the work done by Silver Inning Foundation in associations with other NGO's for last two years in spreading the message of INPEA especially with WEAAD "World Elder Abuse Awareness Day" on 15th June (one week event) .
Taking advantage of this high profile visit of an International expert, Silver Inning Foundation in association with Money Life Foundation organized a small formal interactive meeting of organization working for elderly in Mumbai at Moneylife Foundation, Shivaji Park, Dadar.
The meeting with NGO’s was held on Mon 3rd May from 11am to 1pm and representative from Help Age India, Money Life Foundation, Silver Inning Foundation, Shree Manav Seva Sangh , The Family Welfare Agency , The Bombay Community Public Trust , TISS , ASCCON and FESCOM participated. Representative from Mumbai NGO’s gave presentation about their work with elderly.
Susan Somers talked in detail about INPEA, Elder Abuse and importance of Networking among organization for the benefit of Elderly. She also highlighted the growing number of financial abuse and stress of family members. The diversity of culture and tradition in South East Asia has its own dynamics in care for elderly. She advocated for taking up the programmes in community and on individual level and also to continue to fight for right of elderly at government level. She also put forward the need to stop Elder abuse and Ageism.
She highlighted financial issues prevalent in the US and how they have been dealt with Moneylife Digital team.
It was also discussed to have one meeting in month / bimonthly among the organization for better coordination.
Susan informed that Abuse is an act, or a series of acts that are harmful to an older person, which are caused by someone that they have a relationship of trust with, which could even be a family member. Abuse within families is often hidden. Older people are not willing to go against their families even when they are suffering.
‘Every human being should be treated with dignity. Unfortunately, people aren’t always treated equally and can’t be protected without laws. We need a new convention to protect the rights of older persons, as an international convention is the ultimate legal instrument that binds countries. Existing conventions don’t address the rights of older persons. We had a meeting at the commission of social development in the UN in February on this. Our next aim is to get support.’ said Susan Somers
Two very important things are the right to freedom from all forms of discrimination and violence and the right to monetary security. Then there’s need for access to healthcare, the right to work and the right to own property, which is especially important for women, who are so often cut out from laws, which leave them with no power at all.
“There is a need to raise financial awareness among senior citizens, especially women. They do not understand wills, tax issues and transfers. This leaves them completely vulnerable to financial issues,” said Somers. Highlighting instances of financial exploitation in the United States, she said, “There have been various cases of financial exploitation of the elderly like fraudulent selling of expensive security systems under the pretext of safety or charging exorbitant fees for simple day-to-day jobs like repairing a car.”
While the elderly are highly susceptible and gullible to financial exploitation at the hands of their own family members and relatives, certain groups also reportedly took advantage of the same. “There was a rampant selling of living trusts which promised wealth protection for the elderly from the Government, from paying taxes, from family and relatives. This was in the form of a document. They charged a huge amount of fees for this document. Most times, one did not even need such a protection,” Ms Somers said.
She said, “The government should issue information. To take reverse mortgage as an example, the government should provide information stating these are the good points about the product and these are the bad points of the product, this helps the senior citizen take an informed decision.”
She also said that Depression is a huge problem that is under recognized and under treated, though treatments are available. These issues are difficult for a family to understand, but they can meet a lot of these needs. Most write it off.
During her interaction with Dr. S. Parasuraman Director of TISS and Prof. Nasreen Rustomfram,she emphasized the need of research in different angle of abuse in Indian Context. She also asked TISS to provided training and education in gerontology and geriatric to South Asian countries. Mr. Parasuraman informed the need of care giver at different level for the elderly and the module being prepared by TISS. Sailesh Mishra requested for taking the Gerontology course at grass root level and for the professionals like legal, bureaucrats, medical etc, in such a case a need for On - line course was highlighted.
Susan Somers visit to Mumbai to meet advocacy groups working for the rights of the elderly to support the creation of a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons and her meet with the students and faculty of Gerontology and Counseling course of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) was great success and it bought in new dimension of exchange of knowledge and training for welfare of Elderly Population.
By Sailesh Mishra, Founder President, Silver Inning Foundation
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