By THE NATION
IN RESPONSE to a study that found the rights of seniors being violated as the nation officially becomes an ageing society, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) and allies are calling on the authorities to create a system of protection for the elderly.
Taking such action now will be a worthy Songkran gift to the 10.9 million seniors in the country, the foundation suggested.
The ThaiHealth sponsored study, conducted by the Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research and Development Institute, will be used to create a legal and regulatory protection system for senior citizens. Previous studies had discovered that the elderly, especially those who have lost control over their bodies, were often deprived of their basic rights, underwent mental abuse and abandonment, or were cheated out of their assets.
The research detailed the role related government agencies can play in the mission of protecting seniors, the laws and regulations required, as well as the establishment of a network to monitor the violation of elderly people’s rights and the setting up of clubs for elderly people.
Such findings are in line with ongoing work spearheaded by the Social Development and Human Security Ministry’s Department of Senior Services to support the increasing number of aged people in Thai society, said ThaiHealth’s Poranee Phuprasert, who is director of the foundation’s vulnerable group wellbeing promotion office.
The findings have already been presented as a recommendation to the authorities, she said.
There is a need to raise public awareness about violence against the elderly, so people can watch out for abuse and alert the authorities. The public has to be given a role in helping protect victims, so the elderly can live their last years with dignity and continue contributing to society, Poranee said.
She added that the elderly who face the greatest risk of rights violation were those who live alone or have ailments that hamper self-care and require them to depend on others.
Mental abuse rife
Jiraporn Kespichayawattana, lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Nursing, said a study from 2008 to 2016 found that mental abuse was the biggest form of ill-treatment of the elderly, followed by abandonment and negligence of dependent persons, as well as cheating.
Mental abuse often led to the elderly getting angry or developing a feeling of insecurity, loss of self-esteem and self-worth. The abuse usually stemmed from disputes over misunderstandings or a generation gap. Disagreements can also sometimes lead to physical assault or abandonment, Jiraporn said, adding that more elderly people may end up being abandoned in the future, especially dementia patients.
She also cited many cases of elderly people being forced by their relatives or acquaintances to sign away their assets and then being abandoned. In some cases, she said, the elderly person was even threatened with bodily harm if they did not transfer their assets to the perpetrator, while some were also duped into signing loan-guarantee documents and then left to pay the loan.
She added that there were also many cases of elderly people being subjected to physical abuse, especially elderly women who live alone and are sexually assaulted or harassed by relatives or acquaintances, who then blame the crime on alcohol or drugs.
Somporn Rungreangkulkij, lecturer at Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Nursing, said many elderly women were also victims of spousal abuse, but they do not report it out of embarrassment or fear of causing problems. She said sometimes these women don’t think that being subjected to insult or forced sex is a violation of their rights. She added that elderly women should also be provided with welfare and economic aid, so they can earn money for themselves and be independent.