The population of senior citizens, as per Census 2011, was approximately 10.38 crore, amounting to 8.6% of the total population in India. The population must have grown since then. At the same, unfortunately trend has set in. The number of cases registered under crime against senior citizens has increased from one in 2019 to 40 cases in 2021, according to the Ministry Of Home Affairs.
From time-to-time, it says, all States and UTs have been asked to ensure safety and security of senior citizens. This includes elimination of all forms of neglect, abuse and violence against senior citizens through initiatives such as identification of senior citizens, sensitization of police personnel, regular visits by beat staff; setting up of toll free senior citizen helpline; verification of domestic helps, drivers etc. The Ministry says it has issued two detailed advisories to all State Governments/UTs advising them to take immediate measures to ensure safety and security of senior citizens.
Last year, the Minister of State For Social Justice and Empowerment informed Rajya Sabha that as per the report of Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI) (Wave-1) from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare around 5.2% of senior citizens surveyed reported ill- treatment and abuse.
According to the United Nations, elder abuse is a problem that exists in both developing and developed countries yet is typically under-reported globally. Even though the precise degree of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious. As such, it demands a multifaceted response, one which focuses on protecting the rights of older persons.
The minister meanwhile said that to ameliorate their living standards, a number of schemes exist. He referred to National Policy on Older Persons, 1999, which envisages State support to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter, protection and other needs of older persons to improve quality of their lives.
Under the Umbrella Scheme of Atal Vayo Abhyuday Yojana, the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment is implementing various welfare schemes for improving the living standard of senior citizens.
While various programmes and schemes are there, implementation in an apt manner remains important.
One expects the government to plan and strategize taking into account local considerations and frame action plans for the welfare of senior citizens. The government is also required to provide greater attention to the specific challenges affecting elders. At the same time, everything cannot and shall not be left to the administration. People must address problems facing the elders on their own and treat them with respect and admiration. The elders are assets and they deserve all the respect and love.