Aristophanes once referred to old age as a “second childhood”. This statement has stayed with mankind even after centuries of the writer’s passing away, probably because of the crisp truth it offers. The elderly, with their bodies beginning to give in to old age, indeed enter into a stage of second infancy. They need a lot of care, emotional support, and ‘being there,’ just the way an infant does. However, they don’t always receive the much deserved attention and care in their senior days.
With globalisation coming into figure, there has also been an exchange of traditions amongst the various parts of the world. The West picked up Yoga and a few elements of eastern philosophy from our side of the world. We incorporated into our lives some strands of the western way of living that brought us convenience and comfort. And while we shared habits and traditions which worked for the greater good of all, the intermixing of cultures also led to a few things which were not exactly nourishing for our society.
Why are our elderly living alone?
With capitalism getting a hold of our economy, the people living in villages and suburbs began to migrate towards the cities. The metropolises offered a lifestyle upgrade and presented better livelihood and education opportunities. This migratory trend has been in for quite long, and promises to stay.
In order to supplement the family’s income, people move out of their parental homes, leaving their parents behind. As time flies by and the migrant children start their own nuclear families, it becomes difficult for them to move back to their native places, to live with their parents. Counting in the economic and environmental factors, it is not feasible for the parents to come live with their children settled in the cities. This creates a gap of time and distance, which eventually leads to weakening of familial bonds.
The Empty Nest Syndrome
When the children move out of their parental homes, it becomes difficult for their parents to adjust to their absence. This change takes a toll on their emotional health. They start to feel lonely and depressed, and feel a loss of purpose in their lives. This dip in the emotional state of the aged is referred to as the Empty Nest Syndrome. It affects a lot of people worldwide, including the elderly of our nation. The Empty Nest Syndrome is a major driver of depression in the old, and also affects their physical health in the long run.
How does the future look for our elderly
According to the United Nations Population Fund 2017 Report, the elderly population for India is going to grow three-folds by the year 2050. This would mean that more than 20 percent of the country’s population will be old by then. ( Source: UNPF)
This translates into an impending negative impact on our workforce in the 2050s. Also, with the rise in number of old people, we shall also need more caregiving and healthcare units for the elderly. The elderly care facilities we have right now do not suffice in bringing relief to our existing elderly population. The state and central government-run schemes barely cater to a small portion of our over-all senior citizen population. However, there are a few non-profit organisations such as the HelpAge India who are doing some commendable work in the direction of giving a good life to the old in our country. They run a lot of old age homes and health care units for the elderly.
How can you help?
One of the best ways in which you can help your country in taking care of its elderly population is by taking care of those old people who are closely related to you. They can either be your parents, your grand-parents, your distant relative, or just some neighbour living close by. If all of us start to take responsibility for our own families and surrounding society, we will soon see a noticeable improvement.
Another way to help is by practicing simple acts of giving. Charity organisations will also be happy to take in any extra materials that you are willing to donate. You can either make a clothes donation, a furniture donation, or you can just donate anything which you feel will benefit the elderly. You are also welcome to make monetary contributions. These charities are trying their best to give the old people a better life. Your donations shall be of great assistance to them in the good work they do.
If you strongly feel for this cause, you may also visit the old age homes run by charities, and volunteer to help in looking after the elderly. They sometimes just need someone to talk to, to sit and have a cup of tea with. You can easily be that person and add happiness to their lives, winning hearts all the way.
If this got your ‘giving muscles’ flexing, please click here
Aprajita is a writer and editor who loves to play with animals. She hopes to publish her first novel sometime soon.