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Rights for the Aged: Need of the Hour Essay

* The Background A massive change has taken place over the past several decades in the demographic area of human population : AGE. In the earlier times high birth rates were partnered by high death rates. Historically, the majority of people on the planet at one time have been aged somewhere in the middle of the then-current age range or have tended to be younger than the median age. However, due to the trend of lower birth rates and lower death rates, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, one out of every ten people on the planet is now 60 years of age or older. If the current trend of lowering birth rates and lowering death rates continues, by the year 2050 one out of five people will be aged 60 years or older and by 2150, one out of every three people will be aged 60 years or older. Additionally, the oldest old are the most rapidly expanding segment of the elderly population. Currently, the oldest old make up 11 percent of the 60+ age group and will grow to 19 percent by 2050.

* A Little Story The other day Mrs. Khanna went to a general store in order to get some things for her house. Now before getting know what happened next, here is a little background check about Mrs. Khanna, who she is, what does she do and so on. Mrs. Khanna is a 70 year old woman, who lives by the lane in a busy Indian city. She lives alone because her husband died a few years back while battling a cardiac arrest. She has two sons who are settled abroad. Coming to the present now, Mrs. Khanna was waiting in the queue in the said store, for her turn to come at the billing counter.

When after what seemed like more than an hour of waiting, she decided to call in the owner and put forth her disapproval of the kind of treatment she had received in the past hour. Apparently the sales people constantly ignored her and kept processing order bills that were placed by the customers who came in way after Mrs. Khanna did. Mrs. Khanna raised her voice because she suffered discrimination that caused wastage of her valuable time and also it cannot be ignored that the kind of treatment she received was annoying and unnecessary. Did she deserve this? What was her fault? While some might term it to be just a usual thing that happens, looking at it from the victim’s point of view is a whole new story to talk about.

This was just one small incident that took place in some city. But there are thousands of such instances when the aged are subjected to ill treatment at various places. Be it the workplace, or a hospital or a bank or simply at home. While some like Mrs. Khanna raise their voices against it, others turn out to be not so fortunate to be able to do so. Violation of the basic rights of aged human beings has become a common practice all across the world. And quite recently there has been an increase in the efforts being made in order to take up actions at the international level to combat this blatant violation of human rights for the aged.

* Age Discrimination & Ageism Age Discrimination can be defined as “A person being treated differently, with an unreasonable or disproportionate impact, simply because of his or her age”. This discrimination can either be direct like upper age limits on credit or micro finance, that prohibits the elderly from accessing finance, or the discrimination is indirect like the non collection of data on HIV among people of the old age say above the age of 49 and hence excluding these people from the HIV AIDS prevention programmes.

Ageism is basically the stereotyping and prejudice against the old people and thus, discriminating them on the basis of age.

* Multiple Discrimination A woman always is held and viewed in a subordinate position to man. So, when she ages, her status deteriorates to a greater degree. Woman are discriminated on the basis of not just age but also on the basis of gender, ethnicity, poverty, sexuality, HIV status, literacy levels, physical appearance and disabilities. Specifically in the Indian scenario the portrayal of an old woman isn’t the most pleasing one. Old women are portrayed as villainous characters in television soaps which further strengthens the stereotypes about aged women being evil by portraying them in a negative role. For example – The television soaps often portray ageing ladies as the evil mother in law or a family member who is up to no good. A woman’s plight never seems to end out here. Old women are subjected to false accusations of witchcraft because of the age and gender stereotypes and then they are forced out of their homes or raped and murdered.

* ROLE OF MEDIA Scale ageism might be considered of no harm. Television patronising of the older people in films and advertisements don’t seem to create trouble when thought of lightly. But then a research by Yale University showed that negative stereotyping of the old people in the US had a harmful impact on the old people’s memory, balance and also on how long they lived. A woman’s plight never seems to end out here. Women are subjected to false accusations of witchcraft because of the age and gender stereotypes and then they are forced out of their homes or raped and murdered.

* Violation of Rights of The Elderly The violation of the rights of the aged is a poorly explored area. With the increase in the population ageing over 65 there has been a distinguished social conflict. The elderly are subjected to violence and harassment which is not just limited to being physical. The Universal Declaration on the Human Rights states that ” All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This does not under any circumstances change when a person grows old.

An old human being is entitled to enjoy equal rights, irrespective of age. These rights, have been embedded in the international HR conventions based on civil, economic, social and the political rights but they remain unspecified. Today, what needs to be understood is that even if a person ages, he or she is still a human being and so he or she can enjoy the rights without any changes made. But the sad truth of life is that as a person grows old, he or she is treated differently. Older people are considered of less importance and value to the society. They face barriers when it comes to their participation in day to day events of life. They have to depend on their family members. They eventually start losing their autonomy partially or completely. And become mere mortal beings with no respect and stand in the society they live in. The constant threats to the dignity of the older folk subjects them to neglect, abuse and violation of their basic rights as human beings.

* RIGHTS OF THE ELDERLY When we talk of rights of the aged, we can classify these rights into three categories: * Protection : It refers to the securing of the physical, emotional and psychological safety of the elderly with regard to their vulnerability to ill treatment and abuse. * Participation : It refers to the need to establish a strong and active role of the elderly in the society, which they are a part of. * Image : Image is the need to define a more positive, less degrading and discriminatory idea of who are the elderly and how capable they are.


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