Raja, an elderly woman who lost her husband a few years ago, approaches me with a sparkle in her eyes and a worn off polythene bag in her hand. Within that bag lies a humble offering – a kilo of onions, her simple yet heartfelt way of expressing gratitude for feeling cherished and cared for. Taja’s journey has been one of loneliness, her son having left her to face the world on her own, leaving her with nothing but memories and resilience to hold onto.
Taja’s story is not an isolated one, as it mirrors the painful reality faced by many elderly women around the world. After sacrificing so much for her son’s education and career, she found herself being mistreated and considered a burden by Zameer and his new family. This unfortunate scenario sheds light on why old women are more prone to elder abuse and emphasises the need for strategies to prevent such mistreatment within families.
Reasons why old women are more prone to elder abuse:
Traditional gender roles
In many societies, women are expected to take on caregiving roles within families. As they age and become dependent on their adult children, these traditional gender roles may inadvertently perpetuate a power dynamic where mistreatment becomes more prevalent.
Financial reliance on adult children, especially for widowed or divorced women, can create a situation where they are afraid to speak up against abuse for fear of losing their support and security.
Elderly women may experience higher rates of isolation, making them more vulnerable to abuse as they lack strong social networks that could offer protection and support.
Women tend to live longer than men, and as a result, they may face increased health challenges, making them more susceptible to abuse or neglect due to their vulnerabilities.
History of domestic violence
Women who have experienced domestic violence earlier in life at the hands of her husband or in-laws may carry this victimisation into their old age, becoming more susceptible to abuse from their adult children or other family members.
Unresolved family conflicts
Long-standing family tensions or unresolved conflicts can resurface in old age, leading to abuse of elderly parents.
In some cultures, elderly women may be undervalued and seen as less important compared to men. This devaluation can lead to neglect or abuse.
As women age, they may become more dependent on their families for care and support, making them vulnerable to abuse if family members see them as a burden.
In cases where adult children are responsible for caring for their elderly parents, the stress and responsibility involved can sometimes lead to abuse, especially if the caregiver lacks moral education.
Strategies to prevent elder abuse at home:
Education and awareness
Raising awareness about elder abuse and its impact on families and communities is crucial. Conduct workshops, seminars, and awareness campaigns to educate family members about the signs of abuse and how to prevent it.
Encourage open communication within families, fostering an environment where family members can discuss their concerns and feelings without fear of judgement. This can help address potential issues before they escalate.
Respect and empathy
Promote a culture of respect and empathy towards elders within the family. Remind family members of the sacrifices made by older family members and the value they bring to the family unit.
Encourage financial independence for elderly family members when possible. This can help prevent potential abuse stemming from financial dependency.
Encourage and facilitate social engagement for elderly family members. This can include participation in community events, clubs, or gatherings, which can reduce social isolation and vulnerability.
Mediation and intervention
If there are conflicts within the family, consider seeking mediation or counselling to address underlying issues and prevent mistreatment.
Familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations related to elder abuse in your region. Ensure that elderly family members are aware of their rights and avenues for recourse if mistreated.