Two hundred and twenty reports of elderly abuse were received by the Observatory for the Elderly from January to October 2023, as revealed by its chairman, Mr. Dimos Antoniou, in a recent conversation with reporter, Oriana Papantoniou. When we discuss abuse, we encompass physical and psychological mistreatment, neglect, economic exploitation, and ageism. Most of these incidents occur behind closed doors, with the perpetrator being either the domestic worker or even the children or other close relatives of the elderly person.
The elderly individuals do not wish to file formal complaints, hence turning to the Observatory to "get it out of their system" rather than exposing their relatives or, let alone, claiming what should normally be generously provided by a state that likes to be seen as civilized – and I mean care and benefits for dignified old age at all levels. The absence of state care for senior citizens is appalling (any other word would understate the problem), and even more shocking is the mentality fostered with our blessing, which sustains, promotes, and magnifies the problem of ageism.
However, what we forget, or deliberately ignore, is that we will be in their shoes much sooner than we think.
The number of abuses may be much higher, according to Mr. Antoniou, as there could be other elderly people who are exploited but choose not to speak out. It is unthinkable in a place as small as ours – I have written about it many times in this column – that anyone should be afraid to grow old for fear of whose hands they will fall into. It is unacceptable that there is no state concern for decent old age, but only hollow proclamations every time our "old people" are counted as votes. This is irrefutable evidence of how selective our sensibilities have become, as we constantly overlook the issue of ageism and allow all sorts of 'competent people' to treat senior citizens as a spent generation that is no longer of any use.
The reason why our sensibilities appear diminished on this issue is because, in the background, our moral values have become so distorted that we ourselves become the bearers of this indifference, which we lightly pass on to our children. Consequently, the elderly end up being considered a 'burden' on society instead of those who, with few resources and a whole host of difficulties, have supported it, offering the country their whole being. What is the payback for their efforts? Loneliness, marginalization, anguish, fear, and above all, betrayal – that is what most of them feel, in addition to cases of abuse or neglect.
Left – those who can't afford it – in sad nursing homes, without the required conditions of decent care or locked up in homes with domestic helpers of inadequate training. What should be happening is the existence of state welfare services, either with home care by qualified staff or with state-run shelters that are not ashamed of their existence. Instead, our elderly are left to the mercy of God, with the state putting them on the back burner and only remembering them when a relevant issue sees the light of day and spoils the image of the responsible minister or deputy minister or whatever other politician pretends to care enough to change this wretched state of affairs. However, what we forget, or deliberately ignore, is that we will be in their shoes much sooner than we think. If we do not demand decent conditions for older people – at all levels – now, then I wonder who will do it for us tomorrow, since our example is already to be avoided.