Safeguarding the elderly, is a community effort

With youngsters moving away for jobs, safety of those left behind becomes a concern. Though technology and law enforcement can play a role here, community participation becomes a key factor.

On August 10th, 2012, an elderly couple’s decomposed bodies were found in JP Nagar 1st phase, they were murdered three days earlier. 60-year-old Lakshmidevamma was bludgeoned to death at her house on July 4th in Prakash Nagar. In both cases, they were alone, at the time of the crime.

Elderly People need security. Pic: Abhishek Angad

National Crime Records Bureau’s data or the local police, do not have any specific reports on crimes against elderly. Physical abuse, robbery, stealing, harassment and sometimes murder come under this category.

However, according to a study conducted by NGO Helpage India, in the year 2011, 69% of the elderly people surveyed, felt that crime against them have increased in the last three years in the city. Also, the survey suggests that Bangalore had 44% of the elderly facing some kind of abuse out of the total one-fifth people facing the same in India. 

Citizen Matters spoke to few Resident Welfare Associations in Bangalore and found out that there isn’t a comprehensive plan for the safety of the elderly.

B R Udupa, Secretary of the Resident Welfare Association(RWA) of JP Nagar 1st phase, believes that not only RWAs, immediate neighbours, friends and relatives also have to share the responsibility. He suggests, “The best thing is to call elderly people in RWA’s monthly or quarterly meetings. They may not be the members of the RWAs but they need to be involved for their safety.”

He adds that his RWA has a fair mix of the members; from elderly to youngsters, and will soon have an agenda to discuss about the elderly safety.

Since ages, the whole setup reflects the youngsters taking care of the elderly. However, growing competitive world have left youngsters with no option but to stay separated. This may leave elderly lonely and probably not think of security measures. (Citizen Matters had spoken to P S Ramkumar, who is developing technologies to make elderly independent). But it is time for elderly to think of alternate viable options.

Speaking on the similar lines, Muralidhar Rao, RWA member, Koramangala believes that elderly who live alone in independent houses are not safe unlike houses in gated community. He adds, “They should move to elderly care institutions, else they will have security issues.”

He adds that other alternatives like security installations are also not full proof. He adds, “If it (gadgets) triggers false alarm, then it loses credibility and the next time people won’t come for help.” 

Dr Meenakshi Bharath of Malleshwaram Swabhimana Initiative was upset that neighbours, today, don’t have the time and courtesy to look out for each other. Referring to the JP Nagar incident she says, “The body was found after three days. It is disgraceful from the part of the neighbours that they did not notice any unusual behaviour after the door wasn’t opened for so long.”

She believes that there is dire need for an effective community interaction and adds, “We know that there is one police personnel for a thousand Bangaloreans. So, if each one of us looks out for 10 people in their neighbourhood, we can  take care of the safety of the community.”

The law enforcers viewpoint

Residents who spoke to Citizen Matters agreed that the police are doing a fair job although there is shortage of resources.  According to the data available,  Bangalore has 8,842 policemen/women which tends to ratio of one police for 1018 people in the city. Sonia Narang, DCP South, too agreed on the shortage while speaking earlier with Citizen Matters on the ways to keep elderly safe.

N Mukund, Jayanagar 5th Block RWA member, urges to increase the strength of police and adjust the ratio. He adds, “We got to know that police is building up data base of elderly but police should also depute a dedicated personnel for elderly in each police station.” He emphasises on the need to promote the helpline number 1090 more effectively, which should run 24*7.

On the account of the RWAs role, he says, the RWAs don’t have the resources to look after all matters pertaining to the elderly. “We can furnish the data of elderly and sometimes warn them. There is a need for dedicated groups to take care of elderly.”

M N Vidyashanker,  member, BTM 2nd Stage RWA says that it is not only the security but elderly also need help in daily chores, like paying electricity bills, medication and other. He adds, “It needs planning and discussion in a systematic way. Volunteers would be required. The implementation of any programmes dedicated to elderly needs proper planning and discussion.” 

With police low on its strength, it is essentially the people and elderly themselves, should be vigilant to take care of their own security.

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