What does one visualize when they think about their ageing parents? A sense of safety and security, feeling of belongingness with loved ones around, ample recreational opportunities to keep themselves engaged and active... When we are younger, we are both physically and mentally active; we are also physically and mentally alert to handle any concerns. But with age the scenario changes. Age sets in many changes, some which we are prepared for and some we are unaware of.
If one was to ask if the external factors make a difference, it most certainly makes a great difference when we get older. Changing social dimensions, fading joint families and financial independence are some factors that are contributing to the trend.
Retirement is a vital change in senior years. If one was to ask you how would you like to spend your retirement? The answer would probably have two main components- I want to be happy and healthy and also constructively engaged. As you know, being stress free and being in good health is a major part of ageing cycle. However, everything needs planning. We all have a picture of a retirement somewhere.... well at least some of us do... a mental snap shot of where you would like to be once you retire from the responsibilities - to enjoy in peace and take a deep breath after all the running around.
So while we all want the perfect place to unwind after a long road of life to seek enjoyment and fun. Is it the way we see most of our seniors leading their life?
There is an increase in number of assaults, stealing and killing cases in the city among the senior citizens in the recent past. It is not an easy task for the seniors to be tension free especially when their children and other family members do not reside in the same city/country. I have a friend of mine who called me from London worried on the phone asking me to check how her father was. This is because of the rising concern for the safety and wellbeing of their senior family members.
A large number of people have moved overseas however their parents haven’t really been able to adapt to the western lifestyle, so they still seek their comfort in their homeland. There are quite a few difficulties which these senior citizens have to put up with. To name a few would be- lack of available sources for them to commute, finding a reliable house help, finding someone to help them around in case of medical emergencies and last but not the least, source for recreation to pass time and a emotional bonding.
At times children find it difficult to find sources of affiliation for their senior family members. While we are busy making two ends meet, they struggle to find someone they can have a chat with, interact and share their wisdom, discuss their worries and seek companionship. In our senior citizen workshops we initially organized structured meetings by getting a specialist to talk to them, do activities which will improve their health, but eventually the members of the group came and told us that all they were looking for just simple everyday activities and ways to make life easier for them and improve their quality of life.
Some seniors have their families living with them, but this is also an age old practice which is breaking down due to urbanization and the need to move to different cities to earn a living. Even those senior people who have their families living with them in most cases suffer from loneliness as both children/daughter/son and son/daughter in law is working. The second option is sanatoriums and for some it is living in a religious place if their community makes it available to them.
So what is the need for the hour? I strongly believe that it is essential to have a place where people as they age in life feel safe, secure and can lead their life in true hassle free manner.
In India such a concept is still new, but few names are now coming in light which have initiated their thought in this direction. Time has come for India to have senior friendly and senior specific communities which are focused on offering active and healthy living. It’s imperative to provide seniors a place which allows them to spend time with likeminded neighbors. A living space designed by special experts to provide holistic lifestyle. It's important to give our loved ones a happy home and a healthy environment a small gesture of thank you after all that they have done for us.
- Dr. Anjali Chhabria
(Dr Chhabria is a practicing consultant and psychiatrist for over 20 years)
Views expressed in this article are author's own and do not represent those of The Indian Express