Sarva devamaya pitah
Mataram pitaram Tasmaat
Mother is (the embodiment) of all pilgrimages; father is (the embodiment) of all deities. Hence, mother and father are to be revered with all efforts. Every family has its problems – be it financial or emotional. But the most challenging one today is where willingly or unwillingly everyone is forced to send their parents to an old age home.
Before I express my views, I would like to tell the readers how and why old age homes were established. Old age home is a western concept, which came into existence under the name of Almshouse. These charitable homes were provided to enable older adults who were no longer able to earn their livelihood. The first Almshouse was founded in York by King Athelstan.
A dramatic increase was noticed in the establishment of old age homes all over the world after that. According to the 2011 census, more than 15% out of the 35.5% elderly population resides in old age homes in India. The Friend in Need Society of Madras, was the first organisation to devote itself to the care of the aged in 1840, followed by the Little sisters of the Poor in 1882, in Calcutta. It opened a home which provided shelter, clothing and medical care to the old.
So, why did such a concept come into existence in a society where ideas such as Vasudhaiva Kutmbakam are practised and preached, a culture where parents are equated to gods and given the same respect? Many factors such as urbanisation, western education, changing values, better employment opportunities etc. have altered the traditional roles of elderly in the society and families.
Attracted by advanced technologies that provide opportunities to prosper in life, along with material benefits, and sometimes pressure from spouses, are few of the reasons why such organisations were established. It must be admitted that there are also children in some families, who do not want to leave their aged parents and prefer to take care of them until their last breath. They are willing to sacrifice personal desires for family’s sake. This mindset in children varies widely and parents too, have learnt to compromise with the given situations.
Old Age Homes In Our Current Society Are More Of A Bane Than A Boon As-
- They Keep the elderly secluded from all significant activities of the economy.
- The old start garnering feelings of depression, guilt and isolation.
- Some old age homes often lack proper infrastructure. The conditions are pathetic, and caretakers hardly give proper emotional support that people need, which again leads to feelings of isolation and depression.
- The higher the living standards of old age homes, higher is its maintenance cost, which is sometimes costlier than their maintenance at home.
- In many cases, grandchildren never get to meet their grandparents or spend time with them. Thus, missing out on family values, bonding and also the flow of culture is interrupted.
- Children imitate parents’ behaviour towards their parents, and they also tend to behave in the same way when they grow up.
- Leaving parents in old age homes disrupts families when many times the elderly are refused to be a part of important family occasions.
- In some places, smuggling of organs and drug tests are conducted, where such abandoned people are taken into the shelter as test subjects and end up becoming a source of illegal income with no one to intervene.
- Abandoning parents against their wishes is illegal, according to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
- It provides social security to the old people by catering to their basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter, along with medical care.
- Working professionals who want to take care of their parents but have to leave them mainly due to job requirements, lack of time and work pressures, can do so without being worried.
- It can be a major source of employment and acquiring new skills if utilised correctly.
- Provides recreation and leisure for the elderly and they also get a chance to interact with like-minded individuals.
- With advancing age, people often lose motor functions. Performing day to day activities becomes a daunting task. In an old age home, the association assists them with daily activities.
- It also provides a safe and secure environment, where children may need not worry about the safety of their elders.
- Also, many parents voluntarily leave their children after having the satisfaction of fulfilling their duties. They wish to move on to such places to enjoy their time and live the rest of their life on their terms.
Thus, as every aspect of life has its pros and cons, old age homes, have their own too.