CHENNAI: India is changing — jobs, family structures, longevity and globalisation are contributing to the fluctuations in the stereotypical image of elders in our society. “Studies show that around 32% of elders in India are abused,” says Dr V S Natarajan, a geriatric specialist and Padmashree awardee.
Here the question arises how this problem can be tackled with mutual cooperation between the elders and youngsters and not resort to abuse. Dr Natarajan’s latest book Generation Gap examines the social problems faced by the elderly today, with case studies and solutions to support these problems.
“In the past 20 years, health problems were more common among the elderly. Today, there is more awareness on health, but social problems are becoming worse with the disintegration of the joint family,” he says.
Money is often the biggest factor for most forms of abuse, says the specialist, who has compiled the book using his experiences and situations he encountered as a house call doctor. Once he was called to visit an elderly patient in Anna Nagar, who lived with his son and daughter-in-law. “When I went there, he was lying in a small room alone. On seeing me, the old man immediately spat at me. Before I could react, his son started beating him up violently,” he recalls.
After sending the son out, the old man apologised saying his mental state was not good because of being abused. “The man told me the son’s only reason for calling me was to check how long he would live and when he will inherit my property, not to help me get better,” he says.
Apart from the rare physical abuse cases, the other two forms — psychological and verbal are far more common, says Natarajan, who feels that money has taken a toll on everything. “With the IT boom, people are earning more and they want to spend more and enjoy life. Many do not want to spend time and money on elder care. Also, real estate value has become so high, that many elders are pressurised into selling their properties, and are abused if they do not do it,” he says.
The solutions are not easy, and youngsters too cannot be blamed all the time, he adds. “Caregivers also have problems, especially if someone is living till 90, it does become difficult. But it needs to be handled sensitively.”
He urges that people should take care of their health better in younger days while they simultaneously save money for their old age to avoid their depending on their children.
The book, co-authored by Hema Narasimhan, will be released today at 6 pm at Vani Mahal, T Nagar.