Gopabandhu Mohapatra

Life expectancy has been steadily increasing due to newer medicinal avenues and better living conditions. As per United Nations Population Fund and Help Age India, it is estimated that the number of elderly people will increase to 173 million (17.30 Crore) by 2026. The number of older people are increasing throughout the world. As individuals grow older, they are faced with numerous physical, psychological and social role changes. Depression and loneliness are considered to be the major problems leading to impaired quality of life among the elderly.

But close to 18 million elderly people in India are homeless. Senior citizens living in poverty are abandoned by their own families, as they cannot earn any income. Many a times, they are left with no choice but to beg and survive. Many elderly are left alone after their children move to the cities in search of better livelihood. In the last few days of their lives, who will they look up to?

Pilgrimage to hill stations is considered auspicious. But many times under this pretext, children conveniently abandon their ailing parents to suffer on footpaths with no money even to buy a meal. In the recent times, more number of senior citizens hailing from the Indian middle class are seeking accommodation in the old age homes. The conditions of some of them are even worse. They are separated from their families and sent to old age homes. Hence, the Old Age Homes have come to be a part of our social system.

The thought of ‘Old age homes’ could be frightening for many of the elderly as the notion that has been rooted deep in the society for so long, gives a negative impression. Seniors think of loneliness, abandonment, detachment from the bloodline, and reduced care and safety, whenever they hear the name ‘old age home’.

Over the last few decades, old age homes in India have become a haven for the people who are handicapped and dependent. Finding dignity and independence would be a bit difficult as few old age homes fail to provide sufficient or the kind of care seniors deserve. However, in India numerous old age homes have sprung up across the length and breadth of the country.

At the same time, old age can also be an opportunity for making new friends, developing new interests, discovering fresh ways of service, spending more time in fellowship with God. It can be happy and winsome or empty and sad – depending largely on the faith and grace of the person involved.

Visit your loved one as often as you can. When having a conversation, really listen to what he or she has to say. Take your elderly parent or grandparent out for lunch, dinner, Sunday church service, a movie, out to visit friends or anywhere else you think he or she might enjoy going.

There are five patterns that elders today face generally, which are based on circumstances. Elders stay with children in the same house in the city, which ensures financial and health security. In another situation, they live alone in a separate house with children living elsewhere in the city, considering the proximity to places of work or the educational needs of children. Here, the family members visit the parents once a week or when any health problems necessitate their presence.

In a third scenario, elders stay alone in a town or city while the children live in faraway cities for employment; the children visit once in a few months for occasions or emergencies of health.

In a fourth pattern, elders live all alone in the city, the children having migrated to foreign countries or for higher education, jobs and so on. The children will be living settled and comfortable lives with family and children, with all material comforts. They will visit the elders once in two or three years; this situation causes health-related and emotional insecurities, though the elders will be financially sound thanks to foreign remittances.

Sometimes, elders live with relatives or in old age homes, either with spouse or alone, with financial, health and emotional insecurity. Elders, both men and women, who remained single without marriage invariably land in Old Age Homes.

Each of these situations has its own merits and demerits. While many elders accept the change, others are unable to adjust, and start grumbling and sulking, which is understandable considering the age and exposure to circumstances.

Fighting the loneliness epidemic amongst seniors does not have to be difficult. When both caregivers and family members are committed to engaging in meaningful interactions with seniors, it’s relatively easy to keep loneliness at bay. Some things you can start doing today to ensure loneliness do not negatively impact your elderly loved one’s health.

The life of elders in the present age is full of problems, both for themselves and for the children. The fortunate few depart with satisfaction and peace of mind, while others leave with an unhappy state of mind.  As old people are the most respectful and sensitive on this planet, they ought to be revered and taken care of by the younger members of the family.

However, most of them are neglected and are left to fend themselves. Even the grandparents, who live in affluent families, are not happy. If they are given some tasks, such as paying the electricity, water and telephone bills, they stand in long queues and return home tired and exhausted. The grandmothers have to take care of the naughty tiny tots who keep them at tenterhooks for the entire day.

People who neglect their old parents and grandparents should think about the moral values which they had inculcated in us, and try to be kind and affectionate towards them. If they can’t oblige their needs, at least they should speak obligingly with them. Now, think about the future generation. God knows what will happen to them. Therefore, it is better to save a fortune for old age now itself, because we won’t know how will our children and grand children treat us.

Some trusts started old age homes to protect the destitute senior citizens. They look after senior citizens who are neglected by their own families. They are providing them with good shelter, clothing, food and medical facility, with love and affection. Many Trust and NGOs run an old age home for senior citizens, which aims to provide solace to the poor and destitute elderly. A roof over their heads is a critical need of the elder who are destitute, sick and abandoned by family and those uprooted by disasters.

Help the poor senior citizens who are in desperate need of support. Donate to old age homes to save the poor elderly from hunger and homelessness. Support an old age home to make sure that in their old age, these senior citizens are taken care of. Kind hearted people can donate to help the “Old Age Homes” with essentials for daily sustenance, and constant medical support.

You can also help them in kind including materials like cots, mattresses, utensils, fans, chairs, tables, food items, wheelchairs, etc. These organizations accept donations, which will help them provide senior citizens with basic facilities. They also require funds to build a bigger old age home to accommodate the increasing number of incumbents of the elderly generation.

(The writer is a former banker. Views expressed are personal.)


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