No Country For Old People: Why Is Young India Abandoning The Elderly?

Posted by Munawar Hussain in Society
June 18, 2017

Have you noticed the growth of sky-rocketing walls, embroidered with pointed glass sheets in your neighborhood? Mine is a great reflection of that. Giant barricades are built to limit the trajectory of eyes and limbs of the passersby. Evidently, this fact can be corroborated by using the street view feature of Google Maps. Also, that IGI trademark surveillance camera installed on one of the pillars of the gate. Once, I eyed it for a few minutes, for a while it remained still and then, possibly, annoyed by my staring, it raised an alarm and I had to run with my tail between my legs. Wait, no one can evade the presence of a watchman who is fed with a specific database of humans and is strongly advised to kick the butt of a living organism who doesn’t match the database entries.

Initially, this way of life was exclusive to urban societies, but with the population explosion in urban areas, followed by quantum relocation of urban populace to rural dwellings, the paradigm of social disconnection, alienation, and absence of human connection have travelled to the rural areas.

In Kashmiri architecture is undergoing significant change. The masons working on new houses are directed to construct walls, the bigger the better. House-owners do it to isolate themselves from the surroundings thereby disrupting the whole web of societal connection and contributing towards the creation of artificial human society.

Robert W. Service says: “I have an intense dislike for artificial society. In France, one could lead a free life, do what one wanted to do without interference or criticism from one’s neighbors.”

Playing with a naturally regulated system will have its own ramifications. This isolation from the neighborhood setup has given birth to an entirely new disaster. Meanwhile, in India, the trend of abandoning one’s parents has seen a significant spike. Parents are left out on their own, while their children either get relocated to another country or they totally disown their parents. In most cases, grandparents, no longer competent to earn a livelihood face psychological and financial troubles. They have nobody to look after them and in these circumstances, a complete disconnection from the neighborhood worsens their situation. Instantly, after getting married, the youth of this generation dissociate themselves from their parents, leaving them alone and vulnerable.  

A few months back, in the Nigeen area of Srinagar city, close to the famous Hazratbal shrine, a houseboy recovered a dead body of septuagenarian lady in a lavish mansion. He had gone on a vacation and when he came back to apprise the house-owner about his presence, he found her dead in the living room. Panicked by the untimely death of his employer, he rushed to the neighbors and informed them about the incident. The postmortem examination revealed that she had been dead for several days. That old lady, the mother of two doctors who run their practice in America, embraced a silent death. Had she been in good terms with her neighbors, she could possibly have avoided the tragic death.

Incidents like these should remind our civilised citizens that they need to take care of their parents, or at least build old-age homes for them. According to government reports the number of senior citizens in India is growing and close to 113 million people crossed the age of 60 in 2016. If these reports are any indication, a sizable number of seniors are in the need of old-age homes today.

Mathew Cherian, chief executive of HelpAge India says, “earlier people lived with their children when they were too old to work, but society is no longer parent-oriented and the rising trend we notice is that the elderly are moving out of their homes to places that cater to their needs, but there aren’t enough old-age homes in India to house all the abandoned elderly people.”

The central and state governments together, upon taking notice of this growing issue have launched various schemes to support the senior citizens who are left alone in their retirement days. Schemes like Integrated Programme For Old Person (IPOP) initiated by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment provide basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and entertainment opportunities is acting as a panacea for the problems faced by the elderlies. The scheme also assists financially, and citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim and all of North East can increase the aid up to 95%. Also, the initiatives started by Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry Of Finance are lending support to old citizens. Though these schemes are potentially uplifting the morale of senior citizens, this problem can only be solved, if the younger generation is constantly counselled to be with their parents, especially when they need them.

The memory of their parents providing them with decent food even if they had to hungry to be able to afford that, should be enough for those ungrateful youngsters who abandon their parents.

Richard A. Gardner, who wrote a book titled “The Parental Alienation Syndrome” said, “Only terminate your relationship with your parents in the most extreme of circumstances and only then after careful counselling and guidance from a professional.”

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