Adult Children are Legally Required to Care for Aging Parents in India

by Derrick on February 9, 2009

Here is an interesting piece of caregiving information I recently learned of. India passed The Maintenance And Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act in 2007. The act is interesting, because it legally requires children and grandchildren (but not minors) to maintain the health and wellness of an aging family member, where “maintenance” is defined as the provision for food, residence and medical attendance and treatment; and “senior citizen” as any person age sixty or older. My understanding is that seniors are not particularly well cared for in India, and this is probably the government’s attempt to place responsibility on family members.

india_old_manThis is interesting, because it’s contrary to the American approach which places more responsibility for elder care in the hands of government, not family. There are some cultures that view caring for aging parents as the obligation of children, and that should an aging parent be poorly cared for, it’s a disgrace and an embarrassment for the entire family. The India approach appears to solidify the latter through legal requirements, though perhaps it’s more based in fiscal limits on the part of the government. India has no social security, for example. I can’t help but wonder if, given America’s rapidly aging population, we will see some legal caregiving requirements on the part of adult children in the future. Surely the government can’t care for everyone.

How does India’s act work?

  1. A senior citizen who is unable to maintain himself (India’s gender specific language) from his own earning or out of the property owned by him, shall be entitled to make an application for payment of money and for other relief.
  2. The application may be filed against one or more persons.
  3. After an inquiry, the local government passes an order directing payment from all children or relatives.
  4. Children are obligated to attend to their parents’ needs.
  5. A senior may seek maintenance for food, housing, clothes, medical care and recreation.
  6. Failing to comply may result in fines and/or prison time for the child or relative.
  7. Childless senior citizens must be cared for by other relatives of sufficient means.

The government, for its part, has begun constructing more senior housing throughout the country. Should the United States and other countries follow India’s lead and require adult children to provide for aging parents?


Photo by matthewleessome rights reserved

Anita March 28, 2011 at 5:19 am

As an Indian who has lived in India all her life I can tell you that many Indians are just as selfish and uncaring as in the West. Many Indians, do indeed look after their parents but some of them only because its an obligation and society would frown on them if they didnt, not really because they want to. Also, there are no decent old age homes in India, so there is no other option for older parents, but to live with their children. So to all the Indians and others who think Indian culture is great, I would like to tell them, that it is not so. Indian culture has many good things about it, but it also has some serious flaws… just like any other culture. Dowry, female foeticide, honour killings, women treated like 2nd class citizens etc are all part of Indian culture, though no one wants to admit it.
Finally, in India there are thousands of very well written laws, but only few are implemented. I doubt this law can really be of much use to the vast majority of Indian elders who get thrown out of their own homes by their own children. Oh yes, that does happen in India.

Derrick November 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Thank you for correcting me. I have deleted that language as it’s clear I spoke on an assumption, assumed the law was needed because family members were not caring for them, whereas it seems the law was passed to ensure family members take care of seniors.

Meha November 11, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Where you write :
“My understanding is that seniors are not particularly well cared for in India…”

You could not be further from the truth, in our indian culture, we place HIGH importance on our elders. From a very young age we are taught to respect our elders as though they are higher beings. The fact that there is a law made to make it a legal matter to care for our elderly, probably has more to do with financial problems indians in india face, rather than them not wanting to care for their aging loved ones.

William Ward January 11, 2010 at 11:02 am

I am so glad you printed this article. As my Father has a number of doctors from Indian descent, they comment to me regularly that it is rare to see a son care for his Father as I do and also how common it is in thier culture.
It never ceases to amaze me that here, in the greatest country on earth, neglecting people is the common practice – even when it’s our parents.

Derrick June 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

I wrote “India’s gender specific language” as an explanation for the “himself” as I try to be more gender neutral in my writing. That’s not meant to be an opinion on Indian culture. I know little about it, but I really like their more personal, family oriented caring of elders.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts as well.

Meenal June 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

Hi Derrick,

The language that has been used in this article is very opinionated, especially when you said, “India’s more gender specific language”. Traditionally boys (and spouses) take care of their elderly parents. The girls get married and they take care of their in-laws with their spouses. In absence of brothers, female children take care of their parents.

And just for your information- taking care of elder parents is rooted in Hindu philosophy, which was one of the roots of desire of having more boys than girls. In India, the property of parents is automatically inherited by their children, in absence of any will made by parents. If children can have property rights, what is the harm in taking care of elderly parents. I think you are right in terms of “absence of SS enforces the law made by Indian government”. But if parents are self-sufficient and are getting enough pension, they also live independently. I think you need to explore more about traditions rooted in Indian culture and also to get the complete picture. Having more old-age homes is not a sign of progress of any country.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!


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