It’s rightly said that old age is one’s second childhood. Look back upon your childhood as I ask you…Back then , what did you want the most? Your family and your parent’s time or their money? I am sure majority would say their time. Isn’t that exactly what our parents demand from us when they reach their second childhood? Is it too much of a demand? Read on.
A few decades back it was our country’s joint family structure which we considered to be the driving force behind families and relationships making it through thick and thin . With time, mindsets changed, the so called age of independence and freedom set in, majority families shifted from joint to the nuclear familymajor thing that was being looked upon with glorious eyes turned to now being looked down upon for it started becoming the reason for gen x’s caged independence and many other clashes. This turns out to be one of the major reasons for the split in families.
When parents split from their children or vice versa, the question arises- what are the reasons behind people deciding to live in old age homes (OAH) and not with their families in their own homes? A research paper titled Reasons for living of elderly in old age homes – An exploratory study was published in The International Journal of Indian Psychology (Vol 2, Issue 1, October-December 2014). The location for the research was OAH of district Bareilly, Lucknow and Varanasi. 174 eledrly residing in the OAH were included based on the criteria:
- 60+ age
- Minimum 6 months spent in OAH
- Can comprehend questions and answer them
- Given written informed consent
It brought out the following factors as a result of – what compels elderly to reside in OAH?
- Misbehaviour of son and daughter in law – 52 out of 174 elderly i.e 29.8% stated this as the reason.
- Poverty/no financial support – 51 out of 174 elderly i.e 29.3% stated this as the reason.
- To serve God – 16 out of 174 elderly i.e 9.1% stated this as the reason.
- Loneliness- 14 out of 174 elderly i.e 8% stated this as the reason.
- Adjustment problem- 10 out of 174 elderly i.e 5.7% stated this as the reason.
- Nuclear family system- 9 out of 174 elderly i.e 5.1% stated this as the reason.
- Having no son- 9 out of 174 elderly i.e 5.1% stated this as the reason.
The above stated came out as the top 7 reasons for the same. From them, it can be derived that with old age come up certain needs – to be taken care of, financial support, adjustment and so on. It can also be seen that there is a prevailing mindset that spending your last years in an OAH leads to attainment of what we call moksha. The reason behind this can be the thought that so as to attain freedom from the process of life and birth one must live away from the worldly materialistic desires. Living in OAH can be one way for elderly to do this as they will not be able to travel to other places due to age. Some think that being a burden on married daughters is not what God consents to and hence spend all they have in marrying their daughter off and then turn to an OAH to spend the rest of their lives.
The Hindu, dated 20th September 2015, Thiruvananthapuram edition carried a news story which stated that among all other states Kerala has the maximum number of old age homes. Rate of increase of aged population is higher in Kerala than in other states. Another story by The Hindu dated May 31st 2016 titled “No Country for the Old” stated that India is expected to have 300 million elderly people by 2050. Given this fact, don’t you think that our alarm bells should be ringing? Since in future significant population will be elderly, there is a need that social steps are taken to try and restore the lost values of our culture in today’s youth. We can’t just let them be and leave them to die. As much as this is socially and morally wrong, it will also affect our country in various ways. Both physical and mental health issues might increase among the elderly population thereby increasing the mortality rate. More than anything, no matter what, we can’t substitute their experience with anything. This way we would lose out on their experience related to various things. There is also a need to bring up better managed, much more facilitated and if possible, free of cost OAH. Today both paid for and free of cost OAH are running. The number of free of cost OAH should be increased. This needs to be done soon because bringing a change in the youth’s mindset is a long process hence structure (more OAH) needs to be ready to support the elderly in need.
The same news story in The Hindu also mentioned that although the elderly can take action under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, majority chooses to not wash their family’s dirty linen in public and hence don’t drag their kids to courts.
Gen x’s take
I conducted an online survey so as to attain a brief idea of the viewpoint which my peer hold about the issue. I received 36 responses in all of people starting from the age group of 15 years and going to that of 25+ years. 20 respondents were female and 16 were male.
The questions were –
Has the issue of sending aged parents to old age homes increased or decreased in the last 10 years?
What has led to the increase/decrease? (Subjective and not objective question)
Reply – Lack of desire to adjust, monetary issues, busy schedule, medical expenses were some of the most common replies.
What leads to children sending their parents away? (Multiple responses could be selected by the respondents)
Is it the moral responsibility of children (be it a male or a female child) to take care of their aged parents?
Do you think there is a lot of societal burden on the male child to take care of the aged parents when time comes?
(Those who answered with a yes includes both men and women. Same is the case with no. All the respondents above the age of 25 years responded with a yes to this question.)
Would you send your parents to old age home in future if circumstances arise?
Reply – 35 out of 36 said no further stating their reasons for the same. Only 1 replied with a yes without stating any reason.
It cannot be denied that out of those 35 people who said no as the answer, some might have the fear of being judged and hence decided to play good. Fear of judgment cannot be ignored as a factor here.
I conclude this by putting forward my view that one after the other generation will keep on coming. Today, where we are standing, what we are doing, what we are thinking, tomorrow some other generation will be at exactly the same place with probably much more so called forward thoughts than us. If today we say that we have certain reasons for doing what we are, then we must also keep in mind the fact that that tomorrow some other generation will serve the same reasons to us on a platter. If we wish our reasons to be accepted today, we must be ready to accept our children’s reason for the same in future. If that is not possible, let’s pledge to not bring in our kids in this world for they will learn the most through our actions and the deeds we did in our life. I would not say that parents should be treated in a particular way. I would say they should be treated the way we want our children to treat us tomorrow.
Abandon them today if you wish,
But tomorrow when the same fate knocks on your door,
I hope fate won’t be accompanied by regret