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A good article from HelpAgeIndia:

S. No.

Problem

Need

1

Failing Health

Health

2

Economic insecurity

Economic security

3

Isolation

Inclusion

4

Neglect

Care

5

Abuse

Protection

6

Fear

Reassurance

7

Boredom (idleness)

Be usefully occupied

8

Lowered self-esteem

Self Confidence

9

Loss of control

Respect

10

Lack of Preparedness for old age

Preparedness for old age

Equity Issues are relevant to all the above

   

 

 

Failing Health
It has been said that “we start dying the day we are born”. The aging process is synonymous with failing health. While death in young people in countries such as India is mainly due to infectious diseases, older people are mostly vulnerable to non-communicable diseases. Failing health due to advancing age is complicated by non-availability to good quality, age-sensitive, health care for a large proportion of older persons in the country. In addition, poor accessibility and reach, lack of information and knowledge and/or high costs of disease management make reasonable elder care beyond the reach of older persons, especially those who are poor and disadvantaged.

To address the issue of failing health, it is of prime importance that good quality health care be made available and accessible to the elderly in an age-sensitive manner. Health services should address preventive measures keeping in mind the diseases that affect – or are likely to affect – the communities in a particular geographical region. In addition, effective care and support is required for those elderly suffering from various diseases through primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems. The cost (to the affected elderly individual or family) of health has to be addressed so that no person is denied necessary health care for financial reasons. Rehabilitation, community or home based disability support and end-of-life care should also be provided where needed, in a holistic manner, to effectively address the issue to failing health among the elderly.

 

Economic Insecurity
The problem of economic insecurity is faced by the elderly when they are unable to sustain themselves financially. Many older persons either lack the opportunity and/or the capacity to be as productive as they were. Increasing competition from younger people, individual, family and societal mind sets, chronic malnutrition and slowing physical and mental faculties, limited access to resources and lack of awareness of their rights and entitlements play significant roles in reducing the ability of the elderly to remain financially productive, and thereby, independent.

Economic security is as relevant for the elderly as it is for those of any other age group. Those who are unable to generate an adequate income should be facilitated to do so. As far as possible, elderly who are capable, should be encouraged, and if necessary, supported to be engaged in some economically productive manner. Others who are incapable of supporting themselves should be provided with partial or full social welfare grants that at least provide for their basic needs. Families and communities may be encouraged to support the elderly living with them through counseling and local self-governance.

 

Isolation
Isolation, or a deep sense of loneliness, is a common complaint of many elderly is the feeling of being isolated. While there are a few who impose it on themselves, isolation is most often imposed purposefully or inadvertently by the families and/or communities where the elderly live. Isolation is a terrible feeling that, if not addressed, leads to tragic deterioration of the quality of life.

It is important that the elderly feel included in the goings-on around them, both in the family as well as in society. Those involved in elder care, especially NGOs in the field, can play a significant role in facilitating this through counseling of the individual, of families, sensitization of community leaders and group awareness or group counseling sessions. Activities centered on older persons that involve their time and skills help to inculcate a feeling of inclusion. Some of these could also be directly useful for the families and the communities.

 

Neglect
The elderly, especially those who are weak and/or dependent, require physical, mental and emotional care and support. When this is not provided, they suffer from neglect, a problem that occurs when a person is left uncared for and that is often linked with isolation. Changing lifestyles and values, demanding jobs, distractions such as television, a shift to nuclear family structures and redefined priorities have led to increased neglect of the elderly by families and communities. This is worsened as the elderly are less likely to demand attention than those of other age groups.

The best way to address neglect of the elderly is to counsel families, sensitise community leaders and address the issue at all levels in different forums, including the print and audio-visual media. Schools and work places offer opportunities where younger generations can be addressed in groups. Government and non-government agencies need to take this issue up seriously at all these levels. In extreme situations, legal action and rehabilitation may be required to reduce or prevent the serious consequences of the problem.


Abuse
The elderly are highly vulnerable to abuse, where a person is willfully or inadvertently harmed, usually by someone who is part of the family or otherwise close to the victim. It is very important that steps be taken, whenever and wherever possible, to protect people from abuse. Being relatively weak, elderly are vulnerable to physical abuse. Their resources, including finances ones are also often misused. In addition, the elderly may suffer from emotional and mental abuse for various reasons and in different ways.

The best form of protection from abuse is to prevent it. This should be carried out through awareness generation in families and in the communities. In most cases, abuse is carried out as a result of some frustration and the felt need to inflict pain and misery on others. It is also done to emphasize authority. Information and education of groups of people from younger generations is necessary to help prevent abuse. The elderly should also be made aware of their rights in this regard.

Where necessary, legal action needs be taken against those who willfully abuse elders, combined with counseling of such persons so as to rehabilitate them. Elderly who are abused also require to be counseled, and if necessary rehabilitated to ensure that they are able to recover with minimum negative impact.

 

Fear

Many older persons live in fear. Whether rational or irrational, this is a relevant problem face by the elderly that needs to be carefully and effectively addressed.

Elderly who suffer from fear need to be reassured. Those for whom the fear is considered to be irrational need to be counseled and, if necessary, may be treated as per their needs. In the case of those with real or rational fear, the cause and its preventive measures needs to be identified followed by appropriate action where and when possible.

Boredom (Idleness)
Boredom is a result of being poorly motivated to be useful or productive and occurs when a person is unwilling or unable to do something meaningful with his/her time. The problem occurs due to forced inactivity, withdrawal from responsibilities and lack of personal goals. A person who is not usefully occupied tends to physically and mentally decline and this in turn has a negative emotional impact. Most people who have reached the age of 60 years or more have previously led productive lives and would have gained several skills during their life-time. Identifying these skills would be a relatively easy task. Motivating them and enabling them to use these skills is a far more challenging process that requires determination and consistent effort by dedicated people working in the same environment as the affected elders.

Many elderly can be trained to carry out productive activities that would be useful to them or benefit their families, communities or environment; activities that others would often be unable or unwilling to do. Being meaningfully occupied, many of the elderly can be taught to keep boredom away. For others, recreational activities can be devised and encouraged at little or no additional cost.

Lowered Self-esteem
Lowered self-esteem among older persons has a complex etiology that includes isolation, neglect, reduced responsibilities and decrease in value or worth by one-self, family and/or the society.

To restore self-confidence, one needs to identify and address the cause and remove it. While isolation and neglect have been discussed above, self-worth and value can be improved by encouraging the elderly to take part in family and community activities, learning to use their skills, developing new ones or otherwise keeping themselves productively occupied. In serious situations, individuals – and their families – may require counseling and/or treatment.

Loss of Control
This problem of older persons has many facets. While self-realization and the reality of the situation is acceptable to some, there are others for whom life becomes insecure when they begin to lose control of their resources – physical strength, body systems, finances (income), social or designated status and decision making powers.

Early intervention, through education and awareness generation, is needed to prevent a negative feeling to inevitable loss of control. It is also important for society – and individuals – to learn to respect people for what they are instead of who they are and how much they are worth. When the feeling is severe, individuals and their families may be counseled to deal with this. Improving the health of the elderly through various levels of health care can also help to improve control. Finally, motivating the elderly to use their skills and training them to be productive will help gain respect and appreciation.

Lack of Preparedness for Old Age
A large number of people enter ‘old age’ with little, or no, awareness of what this entails. While demographically, we acknowledge that a person is considered to be old when (s)he attains the age of 60 years, there is no such clear indicator available to the individual. For each person, there is a turning point after which (s)he feels physiologically or functionally ‘old’. This event could take place at any age before or after the age of 60. Unfortunately, in India, there is almost no formal awareness program – even at higher level institutions or organizations – for people to prepare for old age. For the vast majority of people, old age sets in quietly, but suddenly, and few are prepared to deal with its issues. Most people living busy lives during the young and middle age periods may prefer to turn away from, and not consider, the possible realities of their own impending old age.
The majority of Indians are unaware of the rights and entitlements of older persons.

The problem of not being prepared for old age can only be prevented. Awareness generation through the work place is a good beginning with HR departments taking an active role in preparing employees to face retirement and facing old age issues. For the majority who have unregulated occupations and for those who are self-employed, including farmers, awareness can be generated through the media and also through government offices and by NGOs in the field. Older people who have faced and addressed these issues can be ‘recruited’ to address groups at various forums to help people prepare for, or cope with, old age.