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Emotions trump distress

Many senior citizens don’t file cases against their children, despite having legal recourse. Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Last Updated : 14 June 2019, 12:27 IST

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A survey by an NGO working for the rights of the elderly has found that more than 71 per cent of senior citizens in India face harassment or humiliation by their own family members, relatives or children.

Agewell Foundation found that humiliation is the most common form of abuse in old age. Elderly people feel humiliated when their family members and relatives don‘t talk to them, don‘t spend time with them or take care of their needs. There is also severe mental distress and physical torture.

Still, parents don‘t file complaints because of emotions. In countries like India, elder abuse and violence is an under-reported and sensitive issue. It is mostly considered a matter for families to deal with themselves, without involving others, particularly formal institutions.

However, rising cases of mistreatment of parents highlight the need to spread awareness among the elderly about the options available to them. India has a National Policy for Older People, a draft National Policy on Senior Citizens, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, and the National Program for Health Care of the Elderly.

Metrolife spoke to Deepti Ayathan, founder, Ayathan Associates, to learn more.

What does the law say?
One of the most relevant legal remedies is the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007. The Act specifies many things like who are the dependent parents who can claim maintenance, what is the procedure if the children reside outside the country and so on but it provides for a tribunal to look into the matter. It doesn‘t come into the jurisdiction of a court.

What is the procedure to file a complaint?
They need to present a form before the Senior Citizens Tribunal. There is a legal cell there which helps them in filing and all. In Bengaluru, the tribunal is near Nimhans. It is called Senior Citizens Tribunal. Once the form is filed, the tribunal administrator will summon the children for the proceedings.

What happens afterwards?
In the proceedings, they mostly look at maintenance or providing financial support for the aged parents. They mostly look at amicable solutions like parents selling a property to fund their expenses, enrolling them in an old age home, getting children to pay a monthly amount etc.

Appeals against the Administrative Tribunal‘s rulings can be filed at the Appellate Tribunal, which is the Deputy Commissioner‘s (DC) office. The DC office has the right to issue warrants for failure to make a payment or fine the parties. In many cases, it has gone to the extent of cancelling gift deeds where parents transferred property to their children as a gift.

If there is physical abuse?
If there is abuse, the tribunal has to hand the case over to the magistrate as it is a criminal offence.

What if the parents can‘t or won‘t file a complaint?
There are old age societies or entities (they have to be registered) or NGOs which can file complaints on behalf of elderly parents. A tribunal can also take suo moto action on its own. Senior citizens can also call helplines which will register complaints on their behalf.

What about senior citizens who don‘t have children?
For elderly couples who are childless or who have lost their children, their immediate relatives are mandated to look after them. Under the various personal laws, the next of kin to whom the property will be devolved have a moral and social responsibility to take care of these elderly people.

Need legal help? Contact them
‘Age-Friendly Karnataka’ is a joint initiative between the state government and Nimhans for the effective implementation of NALSA (Legal Services to Senior Citizens) Scheme 2016. Their office is located in Nimhans institute. Call them on 9900418922 or email them at info@agefriendlykarnataka.in

Glimmer of hope
“We see a silver lining in the fact that at Seniority, around two-thirds of our online shoppers are in the 25-40 age group, implying that they are caregivers to their senior parents and grandparents. Bengaluru constantly features amongst the top cities for us in terms of sales,” says Ayush Agrawal, co-founder of Seniority, a website which caters to senior citizens.

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Published 14 June 2019, 12:01 IST

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