Guest Column: Life as a senior citizen can be challenging, but do count the advantages
When it comes to all the stages of life, the most woeful time is when a person turns 60. This age is not as “blessed” as it used to be. Earlier, going back half a century or more, sexagenarians did not usually worry so much about living out the rest of their lives as their sons, daughters and their children were usually a part of a well-knit harmonious joint family.
With modernisation and globalisation, however, times have changed. Firstly, families are scattered all around the country and abroad. Secondly, the well-knit fibre of the joint family is crumbling and the nuclear family system is getting to be more common.
With lesser means to live on, people start suffering from depression or other forms of illnesses, worrying constantly about the time when they would be totally incapacitated due to their age and not able to live independently. Many of them find themselves isolated in empty nests and toy with the idea of moving into an old age home. Some spend their time meditating upon God, while others take up work – for which they often are overqualified.
When the mind matures, the body decays.
However, many senior citizens, keen on improving their lives, have established associations where they spend time reading books and newspapers. Monthly or weekly meetings are held for groups in which people narrate their experiences, and get much joy in singing old songs and reciting poetry.
India has no doubt progressed in many fields, but the 12% population of the elderly in the country that has helped contribute to the nation’s progress is not getting the support it requires for a more meaningful, sustainable existence.
Many seniors lose all expectations of love from their children. There are some who have no financial security. At such a stage, all they need is positivity.
While there is no doubt that the elderly are respected in some homes by the younger generations, their numbers are very few.
There are a plethora of problems that senior citizens face which need to be resolved. Sons and daughters-in-law who ill-treat them should be penalised.
Older people living on their own are also in the danger of being looted and killed by criminals. Laws need to be enacted for their protection.
Medical facilities too are limited; with many chronically ill patients, especially those who are financially constrained, unable to access quality healthcare. Government hospitals and old age homes must be upgraded to allow seniors to spend days without discomfort. Private hospitals supported by the government too should have strict rules about ensuring their care and treatment.
Government officials should also check whether seniors are getting old age pension regularly.
The dependence of the elderly on ‘fixed deposits’ in banks has been hit hard with the Reserve Bank of India cutting rates from 8% to 5% in the last year.
The Indian government must take the responsibility for its senior citizens, their good health and mental wellbeing, intervening in their support in case of family disputes over property.
Finally, however, one should remember that there are certain advantages to ageing too. Every person born on this earth will eventually age – and that will be a time when he or she will have enough hours to spare in a day to review and introspect over life and prepare for fresh adventures coming his or her way.
Old age has many advantages of its own. Life is to be taken as a composite whole in which youth and old age are equally important and contribute to one’s development.
No stage of life can be ignored. Youth is the period of doing and old age is the period of sharing experiences gained by working hard to prove one’s worth.
Old age is the time for contemplation and spiritual serenity.
TS Chawla is a Ludhiana based senior journalist.