We sparingly hear of elderly abuse, what we hear of all the time is child abuse, more so in Nigeria where the senior citizens do not enjoy any privileges. Defining the elderly is a bit difficult in Nigeria, in some countries it is 65 years and above, but recently the retirement age for certain government employees was moved to 70 years. Besides a lot of people are still quite active above the age of 70 years.
For the purpose of this Health Tip, let us take the elderly to be persons who are 70 years and above.
It is said that those above 64 years in our society make up about 5 percent of the population, that means, in our population of about 185 million, only about 9.5 million persons are above 64 years.
The elderly are disadvantaged in the society, they are weak physically, not quite healthy, prone to illnesses, do not earn money in most cases. We can therefore easily abuse them without realizing it. I must add that abuses tend to occur more in poor families.
Here is how we can abuse the elderly.
1. Physical Abuse
Elderly people are abused regularly but more in rural areas and especially women. The situation is worse if the woman has no children or the children are not around. Even within the family, the elderly can be physically abused by the direct children and even the grandchildren. There have been instances of old women being accused of witchcraft and beaten to death. Physical abuse is not as common with old men.
We as children must find time to keep in touch with our parents at home; it sends signals to those near them that they are not alone.
2. Sexual Abuse
We often read of sexual abuse of elderly women by much younger men. This is a most heinous act of rape, the elderly is weak and sex could be a very painful experience not to talk of the humiliation and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Those most at risk are the widows who in most cases live alone.
Again being in regular contact with our parents scares away potential perpetrators. In a few cases such heinous crimes are committed by close family members.
3. Psychological abuse.
This sort of abuse is usually by family members and close neigbours. It could be by use of abusive words, taunting, disrespect, making jest of the person, dismissal of whatever the old person says and lack of consultation before taking decisions concerning the elderly person. We all may have been guilty of this occasionally when we were younger but with hindsight, things could have been done better.
The elderly person whether educated or not is a reservoir of wisdom and we can benefit from their wise counsel.
We must respect the elderly, seek their opinion on issues which concern them, love them genuinely and talk to them regularly if we are not living together..
4. Economic Abuse
The elderly, especially the uneducated, do not work and so do not earn any money, they depend solely on their children and relations. Consequently, most of the time, they are without money. The elderly need to have some money of their own, a monthly allowance will do.
In some developed countries, they get monthly allowance; Anambra State has started a social welfare package for persons aged 70 years and above.
Many children neglect their parents, some cannot cope with the problems that come with old age, the wrinkled skin, sometimes slow speech and memory loss among others; that is wrong, very wrong.
We must care for; respect and love the elderly.
They would surely appreciate that and live much longer.