It is really an irony that the society seems to have failed to address a sensitive issue pertaining to the senior citizens to the expected level. This is hap- pening despite the fact that India is a nation that tra- ditionally enjoyed a robust joint family system but in today’s fast changing socio-economic conditions the system seems to dwindle with each passing day.
This is in fact the most significant social issue that needs to be addressed with utmost seriousness and sincerity at the earliest. While this issue is deliberat- ed during various conferences of senior citizens organized from time to time, at the same time it is a matter of great concern to find some adult children abandoning their parents besides subjecting them to neglect and abuse. Such an attitude of the children towards the elderly was abhorrent and completely unacceptable. It is a fact that despite Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 in force, the number of cases of children abandoning their elderly parents across the nation is on the rise.
The great Indian civilisation has always been proud of the way elders were treated and it was the prime duty of the youngsters to take care of the elderly.
There was an inherent social security in Indian joint family system. The children of the family developed deep ties with their grandparents and often turned to them for guidance and solace in troubled times. The elderly, in turn, knew no dearth of love and compan- ionship. There was a kind of symbiosis that held joint families together in comfort and security. However, with the emergence of nuclear families today where both husband and wife are working there are fre- quent, pressing financial crises as a result of which the elderly are getting increasingly neglected, thus their care and dignity getting adversely affected. The senior citizens are already easy targets for criminals, cheaters and looters and the degree of their vulner- ability on this count rockets high in case such citi- zens are abandoned by their children. Therefore the law enforcement agencies and the justice system must be sensitized to the plight of the elderly so that they can take prompt and effective action. In the existing scenario, wherever family system fails in its duty to protect the elderly; the community, civil soci- ety and the government have to step in to fill the vac- uum. Article 41of the Constitution says that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for social security for the elderly the right to public assistance in case of old age. Undoubtedly this provision is an important segment of Directive Principles of State Policy but at the same time there is a dire need to give meaning to this policy intent in true letter and spirit. There is a need to implement the Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Act 2007 more effectively. The laws pertaining to elders were enacted long ago and in today’s changed scenario these need to be reviewed to cope up with the pres- ent day social realities. Today there is a need to adopt a sensitive approach in mitigating the prob- lems of elderly and one should not look up to the government alone to address their problems. Senior Citizens associations, federations like AISCCON, NGOs, all retirement-related agencies like retirement communities, elder care homes, Self Help Groups and lastly, corporate houses should join to support seniors’ cause. After all the corporate sector can play a lead role in this campaign by expanding the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity towards elders’ issues as quite a lot can be achieved through such initiatives in a short time. So let’s all jointly and severally contribute towards discharging the significant responsibility of ensuring environs of satisfaction and happiness for the elders in the soci- ety.