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Battling Stigma and Marginalisation among Elderly During the Pandemic: Need for Alternative Pathways – A Kerala Experience

Asia Pacific region is acknowledged as the most virus-affected region globally, and there has been a growing concern among the health workers, administrators of welfare services, and policymakers about the stigma and subsequent discrimination faced among the elderly population. This is true to almost all countries in this region and not much different in India and Kerala, small State. Kerala, on the southwest coast of India, holds 48 lakh elderly (those who are 60 years and above) at present out of which 15 percent of them are past 80 years, which according to the Economic Review is the fastest-growing group among the old (“Kerala Ageing Faster, 2020). The State of Kerala is badly hit by the virus attack, cutting across its geographical boundaries and population segments. However, the doom and gloom of the virus are most experienced among the elderly, the populace segment considered among the most vulnerable due to the co-morbidities associated with age and health. Disabilities, social exclusion and ageing issues add to this curse. Myths, doubts, and biases make this group highly susceptible to stigmatisation as they restructure their thoughts according to the beliefs they have to be misunderstood and misinterpret responsive behaviours of their kith and kin. The psychosocial effects of ageing, coupled with the fear and anxiety of Covid-19 and the existing morbidities, bring devastating effects to these lives. The paper analyses the extent and pattern of stigmatisation seen among the elderly during the covid-19 outbreak and the ensuing lockdown in the State of Kerala. The paper spotlights the need for psychosocial interventions among the elderly as it unravelled the manifestation of many psychological and family issues and this stigmatised experience which further impacts the wellbeing of the elderly. Considering this as the need of the hour, the authors have initiated their service individually and in association with the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), Ernakulam in nurturing and fostering the mental health of the elderly. Keywords: Stigma, Covid-19, elderly, psychosocial interventions

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