HelpAge India launches SOS App for Senior Citizens

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In the midst of rising crime and abuse against the India’s elderly, leading charity working for senior citizens – HelpAge India, launched today a security App for elders. The ‘HelpAge SOS’ App as it’s called, was launched by Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung at the India International Centre.

SOS stands for ‘Save Our Seniors’. The App serves as a one-stop security measure for elders nationally, connecting them to the HelpAge Local Helplines across India. One SOS call made to the App will be directly answered by the HelpAge helpline staff/ counsellor. Its 24×7 functionality aims at helping elders in distress at any given time. In case of emergencies, it connects them with the local Police, hospital or old age homes if need be. The App currently is functional only on Android Smart Phones, HelpAge is working on making it functional on other operating systems as well.

It was only last month that a horrific video of a frail 85 year old woman being mercilessly beaten by her own daughter in Delhi’s Kalkaji area became viral on social media. In the video, the daughter can be seen abusing her mother, dragging her,  slapping her and pulling her. The whole issue came to light, when a well-meaning neighbor shot the video, one can in fact hear the neighbor trying to tell the daughter to stop abusing the fragile 85 year old.

“Help can come from any corner. Many good Samaritans want to help, but often don’t know how, the HelpAge SOS App is an answer to that. The App is meant not just for the elders but also for society in general, especially the younger generation. Last year, HelpAge had surveyed youngsters to understand their perceptions about Elder Abuse and whether they would step-in

to help. Nationally, nearly 60% Youth were willing to take direct action if they came across a case of elder abuse. We hope that in case they hear or see an elder being abused. HelpAge will of course protect the identity of the caller in case they wish to remain anonymous”, says Mathew Cherian, CEO, HelpAge India.

Over the past 5 years HelpAge has carried out pan India surveys among elders to ascertain the prevalence, extent and severity of Elder Abuse in India. Of those surveyed, half of the elderly (50%) reported experiencing abuse. The Daughter-in- law (61%) and Son (59%) emerged as the topmost perpetrators. The elder victims cited that the primary reasons underlying their abuse are: ‘emotional dependence on the abuser’ (46%), ‘economic dependence on the abuser’ (45%) and ‘changing ethos’ (38%). Unfortunately 41% of those abused, did not report the matter to anyone, “Maintaining confidentiality of the family matter” was cited as the major reason (59%).

An interesting observation about the Reasons for Not Reporting abuse, is that in Metro cities there is marked ‘lack of confidence in the any person or agency to deal with the problem’ and also there seems to be a general feeling of “did not know how to deal with the abuse”. HelpAge hopes to bring some solace in that area with the launch of this App.

“As per a world-wide survey, 56% people own a Smart Phone, and 80% of time is spent on Mobile Apps. I think if even half of that percentage of people would use Apps that could help someone in need, it would make a huge difference”,says Manjira Khurana, Country Head (Advocacy & Communications), HelpAge India.

The App has two other core features. One is to empower the elder with ‘Information on Critical Issues’ related to them, such as: ‘How to make a Will’, in a large number of cases of abuse the reason is Property, learning how to make a Will, can help safeguard our elders. It will also house information about the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, as most elders don’t even know that such an Act exists to protect them, as per which if the carer/ child responsible for the elder’s well-being does not do his duty, he/she can be fined or even jailed.

There is also information on How to take care of their Health in later years, How to live an active life, about their Rights & Entitlements, Financial Planning etc.

The third feature of the App provides real time GPS enabled information on retail outlets that provide discounts to senior citizens who are members of the HelpAge AdvantAge Card program.

Any elder can avail this benefit card by simply contacting HelpAge.

About HelpAge India

HelpAge India is a leading charitable organization working with and for older people in India for the past 38 years. It runs Agecare programmes throughout the country & advocates strongly for the cause of the elderly and fights for their rights. It also advises & facilitates the Government in formation of policy related to the elderly.