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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Covid-19 hit livelihood of 65% elderly, finds survey

Most above 60 still working to earn a living; infection, starvation were biggest fears among elderly during lockdown.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana | Updated: June 17, 2020 3:12:39 pm
Jagdish Chand is a 59 yr old blacksmith whose earning dropped from Rs 2,500 a day to less than Rs 500 due to the nationwide lockdown. (Express Photo by Jasbir Malhi)

A survey conducted to assess the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the elderly has indicated that most of them continue to work even after age of 60. They either had no work or had to face drastic cuts in their wages, the survey conducted across 16 states and UTs, including Punjab and Chandigarh, has revealed.

The survey ‘The Elder Story: Ground Reality During Covid-19’ was conducted by HelpAge India in June, and the report released on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15).

65% say livelihood hit in lockdown

According to the report, at least 65 per cent of the elderly respondents said that Covid-19 impacted their livelihoods. Among them, 60 per cent were from rural areas and 40 per cent from urban areas.

The key findings of the survey (for across the country) revealed that most of the elderly still have to work even after the age of 60 in order to survive.

More so, of 65 per cent whose livelihoods were impacted due to lockdown, the majority 67 per cent were from the age group of 60-69 followed by 28 per cent from 70-79. At least 5 per cent aged 80 or above also said that their livelihoods were impacted due to lockdown suggesting that they too work to survive.

The survey also revealed that during the pandemic outbreak — getting infected, losing income and starvation were among the worst fears that the elderly had in their minds.

Punjab: Elderly living alone suffered most

Speaking to The Indian Express, Ashok Patiyal, advocacy officer, HelpAge India, said that in Punjab, 200 respondents were surveyed and most of them had their livelihoods hit due to lockdown.

Also, elderly in Punjab who lived alone faced maximum issues as their children were settled abroad or in other states and their domestic help/caretakers also stopped coming.

“Of 200 elderly surveyed in Punjab, majority of them are still working in unorganised sectors and doing petty jobs to survive, such as running small shops, driving auto rickshaw, working as labourers, vegetable vendors, running tea-stalls etc. With lockdown, they lost their livelihood. This indicates that even after the age of 60, they had to work to survive. And even in the cases where they don’t work themselves, livelihoods of their children on whom they are dependent, was also affected during lockdown and it further affected elderly in houses. Majority of those who still work in Punjab are in unorganised sectors and don’t get old age pension also,” he said.

He said: “During lockdown they faced difficulties in moving out of home and accessing healthcare/medicines or even essentials such as vegetables because their domestic helps also stopped coming to work. Some were not even in condition to walk till their street to pick vegetables and other essentials from vendors and there was none to help them. Their health conditions deteriorated as they could not see a doctor. For those living alone, frustration and feeling of isolation and getting trapped inside homes was more in urban areas. Most elderly in Punjab were also not covered under the state government’s Old Age Pension and even those who were, expressed that the amount of Rs 750 a month was too less for survival.”

Biggest fears during lockdown

As per the survey result (across India), the three major fears that elderly had during the lockdown were: 38 per cent had the fear of getting infected by coronavirus and loss of income; 34 per cent feared economic loss, fear of starvation and loss of work and 12 per cent had fear of travelling, fear of community spread and their low immunity levels. “Others also feared stigma they had to face if they got infected and fear of their families getting infected,” said Patiyal.

According to Patiyal: “Elderly not only had the fear of getting infected in their minds, but also that of stigma attached to it…Most of respondents had feelings of uncertainty and worry related to coronavirus and their survival. However, majority of them were aware of coronavirus symptoms and took precautions.”

Health and other challenges

The other key findings of the survey (across India) have also revealed that 62 per cent of the elderly respondents were found suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, cancer etc. Of these, 53 per cent were from rural, and 47 per cent from urban areas.

42 per cent elders reported worsening of health conditions during the lockdown. Of these, 64 per cent respondents were from the rural areas compared to 36 per cent from urban areas.

78 per cent of them faced difficulty in accessing essential goods and services due to the lockdown. Among them, rural respondents were 84 per cent and urban 71 per cent. Access to food, groceries and medicines, banking/ATM and domestic help/maids were the top services they failed to access.

61 per cent respondents felt confined and socially isolated in their homes during the lockdown. Here, 62 per cent of those who felt confined were 60-69 years, who are more active physically, as compared to those between 70-79 years (31 per cent) and 80 years or above (7 per cent).

A total of 5,099 elderly were surveyed including 2,639 from urban areas and 2,460 from rural areas. Among them 57 per cent were males and 43 per cent females. The survey was conducted for three age groups: 60-69 years, 70-79 years and 80 years or above.

From Punjab, a total of 200 elderly from different districts were surveyed.

In suggestions for the government, more than 60 per cent elderly respondents want the government to take care of their social security and cover them under old age pension, while 50 per cent want medicines and other healthcare needs to be taken care of.

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