Old age is the terminal stage in the human life span. In our traditional
Indian society, the old age persons have always enjoyed a sense of honour,
pride and authority. Industrialization, migration, urbanization and
westernization have severely affected our social structures and value system.
Chamber (1995) described the eight diminution of deprivation among the elderly
as poverty, social inferiority, social isolation, physical weakness,
vulnerability, seasonality, powerlessness and humiliation of the aged. The
inability of the elders to face the challenges in daily living turns them into
a helpless and precarious situation as victims as well as persecutors.
In order to neutralize the magnitude of problems faced by older people, social
work has to enhance the active age phase through various approaches and
intervention. Social worker need to work with other professions and also
organizations to eliminate violations of human rights for the elderly.
words: Social structure, value system, persecutor, active
“BETTERMENT OF THE ELDERLY AND SOCIAL WORK
Life is progression from youth to old. Aging
is complex process that greatly influences the biological, psychological and
sociological functioning of the life cycle. Elderly or old age
consists of ages nearing or surpassing the average life span of human beings. Advent
of modernization, industrialization, urbanization, occupational
differentiation, education and growth of individual philosophy has eroded
traditional values that vested authority with elderly. These adventures have
led to defiance and decline of respect for elders among members of younger
generation. The elderly thus suffer from numerous familial, social, economic,
cultural, health and psychological problems. Better living conditions and care
makes most men and women look younger.
The greying of the global population
has become a matter of concern for planners, scientists, social activists and the
common man alike. Social work intervention is an organized effort to help
individuals and families to adjust themselves to the community. The social
workers can promote the elderly from their own associations, come together and
engage in productive recreational activities. The social workers can make use
of their knowledge, skills and experience for the betterment of the elderly.
India is the second largest country
in the world when it comes to the population of the elderly. India had 24.7
million elderly persons in 1961, which has more than doubled to 56.7 million in
1991 and 76.6 million in 2001, it is expected to reach 113.5 million by 2016
and 134 million by 2021(Government of India, 2005).
According to a report titled
“Situation Analysis of the Elderly in India 2011” by Ministry of
Statistics & Programme Implementation, Government of India, the elderly
population account for 7.4% of total population in 2001. For males it was
marginally lower at 7.1%, while for females it was 7.8%. Among states the
proportion vary from around 4% in small states like Dadra & Nagar Haveli,
Nagaland Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya to more than 10.5% in Kerala. About 65
per cent of the aged had to depend on others for their day-to-day maintenance.
Less than 20% of elderly women but majority of elderly men was economically
independent. Nearly 40% of persons aged 60 years and above (60% of men and 19%
of women) were working. In rural areas 66% of elderly men and above 23% of aged
women were still participating in economic activity, while in urban areas only
39% of elderly men and about 7% of elderly women were economically active. The elderly population (aged 60 years or above)
account for 8.6 percent of total Indian population as of 2011. In recent
years the population of elderly is increasing in the world, the elderly today
are neglected and are not cared.
PROBLEMS FACED BY THE ELDERLY
A man’s life is
normally divided into five main stages namely infancy, childhood, adolescence,
adulthood and old age. In each of these stages an individual has to find
himself in different situations and face different problems. The old age is not
without problems. The problem faced by the elderly in any society largely
depends on the socio-economic conditions and environment in which they live
(Goyal, 1992). Old age is viewed as an unavoidable, undesirable and problem
ridden phase of life. The elderly has to face Physiological, Psychological,
Social, Emotional and Financial Problems.
Old age is a period of
physical decline. Elderly have limited regenerative capabilities and are more
prone to disease, syndromes, and sickness than other age groups. The immune
system became weak. With the weaknesses many diseases get it easy to attack the
body. There is often a common physical decline, and people become less active.
Causes for physical decline are malnutrition, infectious, intoxications,
inadequate rest, emotional stress, overwork, endocrine disorders and
environmental conditions. Due to dental problems they are not able to chew or
swallow well. They suffer from digestive troubles, insomnia. Bones harden in
old age, become brittle and are subject to fractures and breaks. There is
malfunctioning of the sense organs, declining mental abilities and the capacity
to work decreases. Visits to the doctor become a routine work for them.
with decline in physical strength, vision, hearing and other sensory functions,
old age brings changes in cognitive functions such as memory, attention,
ability to cope with life events, etc. Mental
disorders are very much associated with old age. Elderly people are susceptible
to psychotic depressions. Retirement and loss of not only pay but other
privileges and status associated with the job, economic problems, death of
spouse, moving of children away from home, loneliness, disability and
dependence all these lead to depression. Social disabilities like widowhood,
societal prejudice and segregation aggravate the frustration of elderly people.
Sometimes there are attempts to commit suicide. Forgetfulness is one of the
main psychological problems of old age.
Status of the elderly has been declining
rapidly in the present society due to several reasons. The reasons are as
Migration of the younger generation has
weakened the hold of elderly people.
Modern technology keeps the elderly away
from the present era.
As a result of consumerist and market
driven behavior, the elderly people are perceived to be a liability rather than
In the traditional society there social
institutions like the joint family and the rural community would enforce moral
obligations on the younger to respect and care for the older members of the
society. In the modern society the force of such systems is weakened.
in mental ability makes them dependent. They no longer have trust in their own
ability or decisions but still they want to hold over the younger ones. They
want to get involved in all family matters and business issues. Due to
generation gap the youngsters do not pay attention to their suggestion and
advice. Instead of developing a sympathetic attitude towards the old, they
start asserting their rights and power. This may create a feeling of
deprivation of their dignity and importance. Loss of spouse during old age is
another hazard. Death of a spouse creates a feeling of loneliness and
isolation. The negligence and indifferent attitude of the family members
towards the older people creates more emotional problems.
The problem of economic insecurity is faced by the
elderly when they are unable to sustain themselves financially. Even those who
are got retirement
from service find difficult to meet their basic needs with the decrease in
their income and increase the cost of living as a result of unabated inflation.
With the reduced income they are reversed from the state of “Chief bread winner
to a mere dependent”. The diagnosis and treatment of their disease created more
financial burden for old age.
According to Help Age India, The
problems of the elderly and need are as follows.
of preparedness for old age
for old age
SOCIAL WORK AND SERVICES FOR BETTERMENT OF THE
The social work profession is
committed to maximizing the wellbeing
of individuals and society. Social work with older people occurs in a
wide variety of settings and encompasses a large range of methods, approaches
Ø Crisis Intervention services
The contact between Social Worker and client
occurs at a stage of crisis which can be the onset of critical illness, sudden
loss or other life transitions where the older person’s normal coping
strategies are no longer sufficient to manage the current stressors. Crisis
intervention services focus increasing the client’s emotional capacity to deal
with the problem.
Ø Care management services or case
Social workers are trained to
assess the social service needs of a client and client’s family system. The
social worker manages by arranging, coordinating, monitoring, evaluating, and
advocating for a package of multiple services to meet the often complex needs
of an elderly client. Some of the case management programs for the elderly are
case finding, prescreening, intake, assessment, goal setting, care planning,
capacity planning, care plan implementation, reassessment and termination.
Ø Support and therapeutic groups
In some cases or illness, social
worker has to form the support groups and therapeutic groups for the elderly or
for family members. These groups are useful for recreation, to solve adjustment
problems, coping with illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, dealing with alcohol
or drug abuse, coping with depression and other emotional difficulties.
Ø Respite Care
Respite care is a great living
option for an elderly person who needs some day-to-day supportive services, but
still desires social stimulation, engagement and activities. Social workers are
involved in recruitment and training of respite care workers as well as
identifying families in need of these services.
Because of the shortcomings in the
services to the elderly people in our society, Social workers need at times to
advocate on behalf of clients to
a range of services such as local authorities and social welfare services.
Ø Individual and Family counseling
Counseling interventions focus on
examination of the elderly client’s needs and strengths, the family’s needs and
strengths and the resources available to meet the identified needs for the problems
of depression, adjustment, loss, addictions etc.
Ø Adult day care services
Social worker provide counseling
services, supportive services, care planning services for the elderly being
served by adult day care services.
Ø Housing and transportation assistance
Social worker finds appropriate
accommodation and transportation facilities for the elderly people to live a
rich and full life.
Ø Social services in Hospitals
A social worker’s role is to ensure
that in striving towards improved health and wellbeing outcomes of older
people, useful and appropriate support systems are in place, engaged and
utilized to their full extent. This includes assessment of social needs, health
education for older person and the family, direct services, discharge planning,
community liasion, consultation in developing a therapeutic environment and
participation in developing care plans that maximize the elderly people
potential for independence.
Ø Adult protective services
Social worker identifies the risk
of elderly that includes physical abuse, psychological abuse, exploitation and
neglect. If abuse or neglect is determined, then adult protective services,
social workers develop, implement and monitor a plan to stop the mistreatment.
Ø Moral education
Moral education should be
encouraged by social worker in schools and colleges to inculcate a sense of
responsibility and respect towards the aged. Family education has to be
provided to strengthen the family bond.
Ø Legal assistance
It is the responsibility of the
social worker to ensure elderly regarding their rights, health policies and
programmes, legal aid and also assisting to get the required legal provisions
for a better living.
Social work is a service rendering
profession by using its primary and secondary methods. Thus the immense need
for the care and protection of these elderly people is increasing and as a
result geriatric social services became a helping and a paving hand for old
agers. Social work focuses on what people can do and maximize both
opportunities and quality of life in the context of their social system, their
needs and their rights. Professional social workers have a special
responsibility, unique task and contributions in relation to the prevention of,
investigation and intervention in the elder mistreatment. Social work enables
elder people and their families to work through their difficulties and engage
the relevant services to help relieve or improve their situation to their own