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429 - Human rights crisis for older people during the COVID-19 pandemic in India: Psychosocial cohesion as a mitigating strategy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2021

Debanjan Banerjee*
Affiliation:
Consultant Geriatric Psychiatrist
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Abstract

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It has been more than a year of the global unprecedented Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. The pandemic has exposed and exploited risks not only related to health, but also the societies, economies and our future. India, being one of the worst hit nations during this outbreak, has faced a significant economic fallout with certain vulnerable populations enduring major humanitarian crisis. The frontline workers, age and gender minorities, socio-economically impoverished and migrant workers have been disproportionately affected in India, with the disparities being widened further in the sub- continent with the second largest population and a marked socio-ethnic diversity.

COVID-19 is in no way a “great equalizer”, contrary to its popular term. Older adults are at disproportionate risk of severe infection, mortality as well as loneliness, seclusion, abuse and neglect during the pandemic. Age and ageism have both factored as risks for physical and psychosocial burden of the elderly. Besides the medical factors, lack of social security, isolation, stigma, sexism, elder abuse, loss of autonomy and restricted healthcare access are crucial in the pandemic situation. Among the proposed pathways to restore human rights and societal balance during such a global crisis, social cohesion is a potential strategy. A multi-dimensional driver of long-term prosperity and collectivism, social cohesion refers to the extent of connectedness and solidarity among various groups. Interpersonal relationships within the community and sense of belongingness are the twin pillars on which social cohesion stands. This presentation reviews psychosocial vulnerabilities of older adults during infectious disease outbreaks in light of the present pandemic and proposes strategies to mitigate this marginalization through the WHO’s concept of healthy ageing based on social cohesion and inclusion. In this regard, policies and interventions require deep reflections on how best to balance opportunities and adversities, and sustain resilience to cope both with the present and future.

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Copyright
© International Psychogeriatric Association 2021
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