MEXICO CITY – The isolation and violence suffered by the elderly in Mexico go largely unobserved, but that doesn’t make these evils any less prevalent: few institutions attend to a problem often cloaked in misinformation and complicated family ties.
Mexico’s National Geriatric Institute’s medical researcher Liliana Giraldo told EFE that mistreatment of the aged should be documented on five levels: physical, psychological, financial and sexual abuse, plus neglect.
“We’re not just talking about physical and psychological violence – we include neglect as a fundamental type of mistreatment.”
Neglect is passive aggression that occurs when the elderly need care and the people they depend on give them none or not nearly enough.
Though some around them might be unaware they’re doing it, “they are attacking the health and life of the elderly,” she said.
The aged in their daily lives are subject to a corrosion by members of society who have nothing good to say about them, exclude them from the conversation and humiliate them.
“We live in a capitalist society that prizes and rewards what is new rather than what is old. We value whatever is productive,” Giraldo said.
Mistreatment by family and friends begins once the older person needs financial help.
Family ties are a rope that tightens in a way that sometimes strangles. Some 90 percent of people seeking help from the Mexico City District Attorney’s Office are victims of their own sons or daughters.
The prosecutor in Family Court cases, Claudia Violeta Azar, told EFE about some rescue operations for old folks in distress.
Thanks to its anonymous reporting system, the District Attorney’s Office found an exhausted, emaciated old man lying on a mattress on the floor, gasping for breath.
Cockroaches crawled over his cadaverous skin, attracted by the excrement around him, since he was too weak to get to a bathroom.
“When we found him, he was practically a skeleton,” said Azar, who blamed his daughter for the shape the old man was in.
When investigators from the DA’s office found her, she was carrying a piece of head cheese and said: “I already gave him his meal.” The young woman seemed to be suffering from severe mental deficiency that kept her from understanding the cruelty of what she was doing.
Furthermore, “ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it,” the prosecutor said in relating one of many such cases.