Troubled seniors look for a home away from home

They prefer to stay at shelter homes to avoid abuse at the hands of their family

The elderly in the city still believe a home is incomplete without old people. Woh ghar hi nahi hai jahan buzurg na ho.

“An elderly person in any house is like a pillar to the family. But with modernisation and the so-called adjustment issues within families, most of the elderly population is now being thrown into old age homes,” says G S Bhatia, inmate of Gharounda, an old age home in Chattarpur.

This home is run by Paras Foundation and funded by Paras Dryers and Chemicals which provides food, shelter, medical facilities and even monetary help to the elders.

Other inmates at this home say they are happier there and would prefer to stay on,  rather than go back to their children. The home has 28 inmates from different economic backgrounds.

Older citizens complain they were either forced to move out of the house or they left on their own because they faced abuse and were misunderstood.

“I came here because of differences with the family. My children keep calling me home but I don't want to go. They come to meet me sometimes but I don’t want to stay with them.

At least I get milk every day in this home. At my children’s place they used to tell me not to drink milk as my grandchildren needed it more than I did,” says 63-year-old Vimla Chauhan from Ghaziabad, who has been staying there for the last five years.

Many elderly prefer to shift to a home rather than stay with a daughter’s family. “Our only daughter got married and we decided to stay in the home rather than staying anywhere else. My husband died four years ago in this home,” says 81-year-old Prem Lata.

For the elderly who belong to poor families the situation is worse as they are left on the roads after their children decide that they cannot bear the expense.

“Most of the destitute elderly population is picked up by NGOs. However, since such NGOs are few in number, most of the older citizens from poor families die once they are abandoned,” says Bobby Poulose, member HelpAge India, an NGO that works for the rights of the older citizens across the country.

There are several old age homes in Delhi but they are not enough to house the elderly population, says J R Gupta, chairperson, Confederation of Senior Citizens Associations of Delhi.

“Since lifestyles are changing and the system of joint families has faded away in urban India, more and more aged people are moving out of their houses willingly and forcibly,” says Gupta.

This confederation has close to 50 senior citizen forums in Delhi. Gupta adds that since property prices have gone up in Delhi, the older citizens are not safe in the city.

“Most parents, out of love, give away their properties to children. Children start ill-treating their parents and force them to shift to old-age homes,” he says.
Interestingly, only 12,184 of the 11 lakh elderly people in the Capital have been registered with the police.

“Police personnel seldom visit the houses of senior citizens, citing shortage of staff as the reason,” he says.

In a recent study by HelpAge India, 31 per cent elders in India, aged 60 and above, face “disrespect, neglect and verbal abuse from their family members”.  And the primary abusers are their sons.

Many elders complain that children do not have time to talk to them or listen to their problems. This irks them the most.

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