CHENNAI: Senior citizens leading retired lives may mean an end to the work-routine, but life is not rosy for the elderly. In addition to financial and health problems, they face social problems in their day-to-day life. Routine activities, such as taking a walk on the roads to getting daily-work done becomes arduous as the elderly face many hurdles.
According to the 2011 census, there are over 47 lakh people above the age of 65 living in Tamil Nadu of which close to 22 lakh live in urban areas.
“Even walking on the roads is scary. Many do not follow traffic rules. So, we cross the roads at our own risk,” said Devi (65) from Tondiarpet.
From public transport to crowded areas, older persons complain that it is hard to find a friendly face. While there are seats exclusively allotted to senior citizens in government buses, they hardly get to avail of the benefit. “People who can afford to take a taxi or auto, do so, but those who cannot, have no other choice but to stand in buses. No one bothers to offer a seat. It is the same case in any place where we stand in a queue. People have least concern for us,” said AR Kaliyamoorthy (71), a retired assistant director from state school education department.
Senior citizens also complain that they are being mistreated by youngsters in the city. Thandaiya (73), from Ambattur stopped taking his evening walks as he was unable to deal with drunken youths in his locality who harass him. “They poke fun at me. They smoke and blow the smoke in my face. Youngsters don’t give any respect,” he complained.
Further, the growing number of people moving to old age homes show they do not get the respect they deserve even at home. M Arumugam, senior assistant, Programs, HelpAge India, says “we get about 15 calls a day in our helpline and most of them are from aged parents complaining that they are denied care by their children. While most of the elderly who face difficulties are from middle class families, there are a few from rich families too. We counsel such families. Sometimes the parents go back with the children, but at times, they end up in a home. Of course, we regularly rescue elderly people, who are abandoned by their family, from the streets.”
If leading a peaceful life at home with children seems a blessing, it comes with a risk to personal security, particularly when staying alone at home while children go away for work or live abroad. Recent incidents of senior citizens being a soft target for easy money only show that even living within the four walls of their home does not guarantee safety. “Senior citizens face threats from anti-social elements, who attack them even during the day-time. But it is welcome news that police are now keeping a list of senior citizens in the city and are ensuring our safety,” said D Rajasekaran, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Senior Citizens’ Association.