Human health comes to decline after sixty years of age, which is considered as old age. The transition at this stage from an energetic being to an alienated one accompanies several concerns and challenges. On the one hand, when physical health starts declining, pain in knees, decreased visibility, dementia, etc., become the common issues associated with old age, whereas on the other end, the lifestyle changes also bring about a lot of psychosocial issues, which need to be addressed. A person who was once the breadwinner of the family now becomes a dependent being, and this often brings a sense of helplessness and powerlessness amongst them.
His daily routine was going to the office, meeting with friends and doing the daily chores, and now he is confined to staying at home and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Erik Erickson, in his Psychosocial theory, defines old age as a conflicting stage between integrity and despair, and that the successful resolution of this stage brings out the virtue of wisdom in a person.
If a person at this stage gets satisfied with the performances of the roles throughout life, he achieves integrity, whereas failure in such roles gives despair. Some of the scholars have also defined this stage as a stage of social alienation. Retirement from the job, demise of spouse and the settlement of children may bring about a state of alienation; friends, as well as partner and children, often leave an empty nest for the person.
The elderly are considered to be the most valuable part of society, but when it comes to practical behaviour, they are treated otherwise. In this fast-paced life, children often leave their old parents behind to live on their own. Growing industrialization and urbanization have promoted the culture of nuclear families, which has led to the erosion of the traditional value system and a compromise on respecting the elderly and giving them love, care, and support. Today, they are considered a liability to the family and are also subjugated to emotional, social and financial abuse, and neglect by their children. A family, as an institution, is failing to provide the safety net which one needs at this stage.
This failure has increased the responsibility of the state to provide welfare measures to the elderly population. The Census of 2011 mentions that the elderly population in India is around 7.8%, and it is estimated to rise to 17% by 2021, which anticipates a dire need for the welfare measures associated with this stage. Establishment of old age homes and provision of financial assistance schemes are the efforts that are made by the state, but still, there is a long way to go.
Ageism should also be looked at from the lens of welfare concern as it can be a major development challenge. Keeping this in view, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Older Person Act 2007 has been enacted, which specifies the responsibility of children to look after their parents and also the state to provide them with the necessary safety net. But there are several loopholes in the implementation of these schemes and legislations.
The issues of elderly care can be solved through a collaboration between caregivers and the state where neither the caregivers should feel burdened nor the state. The state could provide financial and social assistance by setting up centres where the elderly could contribute according to their capacities. In return, they could get some amount which could help them to live the rest of their life with dignity. This would also engage their day with productivity despite the isolation.
Whereas the caregiver, on the other hand, should be sensitized that it is their prime duty to take care of their parents at a stage where they need them. To care for those who have cared for you is the highest form of honour. And the care that parents provide to their children can never be compensated by any other measures. Elderly people are the treasures of a society who can contribute a lot through their lived experiences. Hence, they should be given love and care.