The coronavirus lockdown impacted the livelihood of 65 per cent of the elders and they either had no work or faced a drastic loss in their wages during the period, according to a new study.
'The Elder Story: Ground Reality during Covid 19' was released on the occasion of the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Monday. It was conducted by HelpAge India, which surveyed 5,099 elders across 17 states and four Union territories.
It found that of those 65 per cent elders whose livelihoods had been impacted, 67 per cent were in the age group of 60-69 years, a stark 28 per cent in the 'old-old' category (70-79 years) and five per cent in the 'oldest-old' age group (80 plus).
"About 71 per cent elder respondents stated that the livelihood of the breadwinner of their family was impacted (loss of work/wages) by the lockdown," the NGO study said. "Of these, 61 per cent were from the rural areas, while 39 per cent were from urban areas."
The study also highlighted that 42 per cent of the elders reported worsening of health conditions during the lockdown.
"Of these, 64 per cent respondents were from the rural areas as compared to 36 per cent from urban areas," it said, adding that "61 per cent were young-old, 31 per cent old-old and 8 per cent oldest old".
Due to the lockdown, the study said 78 per cent of elders faced challenges accessing essential goods and services nationally.
The top three essential goods and services, which the elders had difficulty in accessing during the lockdown, were access to food, groceries and medicines, followed by access to domestic help and banking services.
"Amongst the total rural respondents, 84 per cent elders faced difficulty in accessing essential goods and services and 71 per cent amongst the total urban elderly," the study said.
Sixty-one per cent of the respondents felt confined and socially isolated in their homes during the lockdown, the report said. "Here the rural-urban distribution was equal, with 50 per cent elders being from rural areas and 50 per cent from urban areas."
HelpAge India chief operating officer Rohit Prasad said the elderly were facing a three-pronged struggle — high health risks, challenges of social isolation and battle of survival due to loss of income.
Prasad said most of the elderly in India had to work to make ends meet as there is no universal social security system.
"Most of them are unskilled, casual workers, mostly from the unorganized sector, who earn a meagre daily wage to survive," he said. "These people were hit hard by the lockdown."
The elderly risk being forgotten and unsupported when they require help the most. There is a need for a special and coordinated action plan for elderly by the government, supported by the community and the family, he added.