Smart­phones mak­ing el­ders feel ne­glected: Study

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Nation - Sm­riti Kak Ra­machan­dran let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEWDELHI: Se­nior cit­i­zens in In­dia nurse the feel­ing that they are be­ing ne­glected and dis­re­spected be­cause of all the at­ten­tion that their adult chil­dren de­vote to their smart­phones and the so­cial me­dia, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished on Thursday, the eve of World Elder Abuse Aware­ness Day.

The an­nual study by HelpAge In­dia, a char­ity that works with and for the dis­ad­van­taged el­derly, fo­cussed this year on the im­pact of so­cial me­dia and tech­nol­ogy vis-à-vis abuse of the el­derly.

“Each year we try to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the ex­is­tence of this heinous crime against our el­derly and cre­ate aware­ness about the is­sue. Un­for­tu­nately, elder abuse starts at home and from whom they trust the most …This year we also looked into the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy,” said Mathew Che­rian, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, HelpAge In­dia. “While tech­nol­ogy in it­self is good and pro­gres­sive, it also has ad­verse im­pacts in the lives of our el­derly.”

The re­port was based on in­ter­views with 5,014 el­ders across 23 states; 65% of the re­spon­dents com­plained that ex­treme at­ten­tion given to smart phones and com­put­ers by the young was dis­re­spect­ful to them. “Seven­tythree per­cent el­ders felt that their adult chil­dren are too busy on the phone even when at home with them. Sev­enty-eight per cent el­ders agreed that so­cial me­dia had de­creased their fam­i­lies per­sonal time spent with them,” the re­port said.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the most com­mon forms of abuse faced by the el­derly were dis­re­spect (56%), ver­bal abuse (49%), ne­glect (33%) , eco­nomic ex­ploita­tion (22%) and phys­i­cal abuse (12%). Nearly one-fourth of the el­ders in­ter­viewed for the re­port ex­pe­ri­enced abuse; the main per­pe­tra­tors were sons (52%) and daugh­ters-in-law (34%). The gov­ern­ment is do­ing some­thing to tackle the ne­glect of se­nior cit­i­zens. It pro­poses to amend the pro­vi­sions of the Main­te­nance and Wel­fare of Par­ents and Se­nior Cit­i­zens (MWPSC) Act, 2007, pos­si­bly do­ing away with a ~10,000 cap on the main­te­nance al­lowance that is payable to se­nior cit­i­zens by their chil­dren or other care­tak­ers, widening the def­i­ni­tion of chil­dren to in­clude bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren, adopted or step chil­dren, sons-in-law and daugh­ters-in-law, grand­chil­dren and even mi­nors rep­re­sented by their le­gal guardians. Ear­lier, the term chil­dren in­cluded only sons and daugh­ters and grand­chil­dren, ex­clud­ing mi­nors.

To be sure, the use of tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dia also has an up­side. The re­port said that while only 4% if the re­spon­dents were in­ter­net users, 70% of them ad­mit­ted that tech­nol­ogy had im­proved their own knowl­edge about health is­sues, and en­hanced their so­cial skills.

“More than 65% of the el­derly who are so­cial me­dia users, con­firmed that so­cial me­dia has made their com­mu­ni­ca­tion eas­ier, their re­la­tion­ship with ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers or rel­a­tives has in­creased, they un­der­stand the younger gen­er­a­tion bet­ter and so­cial me­dia has helped in re­duc­ing ha­rass­ment against el­ders,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

More than 90% of these el­derly in­ter­net con­sumers use so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Facebook (61%), What­sApp (56%) and YouTube (40%) and more than a third spend time on plat­forms for en­ter­tain­ment, while the main pur­pose of their us­ing so­cial me­dia is to con­nect with fam­ily and friends.

Samir Parikh, a psy­chi­a­trist and di­rec­tor of the depart­ment of men­tal health and be­havioural sciences at For­tis Health­care, said “While tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dia some­times im­pact re­la­tions, even be­tween spouses, par­ents and their chil­dren, the feel­ing of ne­glect gets ex­ag­ger­ated in the el­derly. But it is also so­cial me­dia that helps them stay con­nected. We need to em­path­i­cally recog­nise and re­spond ef­fec­tively,” he said.

THE AN­NUAL STUDY BY HELPAGE IN­DIA WAS BASED ON IN­TER­VIEWS WITH 5,014 EL­DERS ACROSS 23 STATES

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