Simple living and high thinking is the motto of the Senior Citizen. The “Helping Hands” of the seniors spread to every nook and corner of the country. It helps to spread awareness about the needs of the Senior Citizens that makes them know their own rights. This includes how to make use of pension benefits to profitable investments and earning good returns. Such returns earned can be made use for the monthly medical expenses without pinching the pocket. It is time to sit and chit chat in a nearby park or garden and relax and enjoy life the fresh air. Doing yoga for few days in a week can also benefit the seniors to carry on with added spirit and vitality.
It is often said that poverty in childhood and loneliness in old age are curses on human beings. Maybe this statement was made during the years when the situation of elders living alone was a rare occurrence. In the olden days, the joint family system existed in India. This beautiful social institution took care of elders, the orphaned children, destitute and widows. But in today’s global village scenario, when the children are more often than not settled elsewhere in the globe, the elders are left alone. It may be due to the children’s inability to take them along with them or due to the desire of the elders themselves to stay alone in India. They join senior citizen clubs and make their life meaningful by entering into social activities by playing a game of chess or turn to Carrom Board by playing few games for the diversion of their mind and forget about worries.
The tag senior citizen is generally given to a person who is between 58 and 65 years of age and has superannuated from active service. This age band fixed for retirement was based on the old system followed decades ago when longevity was lower than 60 years. With the advance in medical sciences and health supporting systems, longevity now goes up to 75. Perhaps, the retirement age needs revision to make use of the services of experienced people for some more time in the interest of the national development.
The presence of relatives and old-age homes, however comfortable, cannot provide for emotional needs. Some people overcome the blues by taking recourse to cultural and social activities but others suffer silently. Low income and poor health aggravate the misery. With about 50 per cent of the elderly being financially dependent on others, it is affordable housing, health care, and the psychological and social manifestations of aging that we will struggle to respond to as a country with no social security and dismal elderly care facilities. What will be the combined impact of this trend on small, nuclear families, along with an improvement in lifestyle and an increase in degenerative diseases and lifespans, especially for women? Where are we going to live as we grow old and who is going to take care of us?
While we hope that the Indian family continues to be stronger than in most countries and provides a caring environment for the elderly, it can’t be the basis for our ability to support the elderly. India needs to take a serious look at the needs of the elderly in a more pragmatic and holistic manner. For starters, it could focus on the three key aspects of health, housing, and dignity. NGOs and social organisations are doing their best to provide a better and satisfactory way of life in metro cities. Old age homes are coming up in Coimbatore, Bengaluru, and Chennai for the upkeep and make them rehabilitated with proper food and health care. But how many people can afford such facilities of their own or through the resources of their children? Children live in far places like America or Australia and thus making the parents weary of their life in isolation and worried about the well being without the personal touch of their children.
There is a need for a network of old age homes, both in the private and public sector. While the private sector has taken the lead in setting up some state-of-the-art facilities, most of these are priced well out of the reach of the ordinary citizens. State governments must be mandated to set up quality, affordable homes. A growing number of old people live alone while their children work abroad. The Senior Citizens feel insecure and helpless with no one to take care of their daily needs. Loneliness and depression may be unwanted bed fellows of old age people, but along with advancing years come more palpable enemies.
That means the seniors have understood the concepts and techniques of active aging and about healthy living, which is possible only through positive thinking. Such seniors are role models to the younger generation. There lies the real success of life and let others live in a serene atmosphere as seniors don’t become a burden to the family as well as to the society.