The age old issue – old age homes

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 family structure.The major 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?

increase-decrese

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) 

new

Is it the moral responsibility of children (be it a male or a female child) to take care of their aged parents?

1000

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.)burden

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.

MY TAKE

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. 

– Paranjaya Mehra

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Author: Paranjaya

What I have failed to speak, I have succeeded to write! - Paranjaya Mehra

14 thoughts on “The age old issue – old age homes”

  1. This makes sense if course but the issue isn’t one dimensional. The new generations can’t be blamed for aspiring for more freedom. Rather the focus should be on providing such avenues for the elderly to take care of themselves and keep on being themselves after their retirement. The basic societal structure needs to change so as to keep up with the changing times. Parents are never burden but the younger generations should always have a choice how they want to lead their lives. Life doesn’t end at the age of retirement, it goes on and no one needs to rely on their some and daughters by compulsion (if there are other reasons, albeit medical or otherwise, that’s understandable). That’s how I feel about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I agree. I tried approaching a few old age homes nearby my locality for the same purpose which you mentioned. Unfortunately, they didn’t really allow me to come for an interaction with the people there. So all I could do was talk to two elderly ladies living with their children in the same society as mine. Since they are living with their children they couldn’t really comment about OAH. All I could take out from their interaction was the fact that majority aged parents are not looking for money but for time, support and love. That’s it. Nothing more. Hence I began my post with that “what would you want as a child from them? Time? They want the same.” See the start. I hope that clarifies. 🙂 In my upcoming posts, Will surly try to get in touch with those affected by the topic.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. See, the thing is when a child (irrespective of the gender) is born in a family; every parent has a hope that they now have someone to carry forward their name; they now have someone who will look after them when in need; someone whom they consider the dearest for their whole lives will consider them the dearest in when they get old and when this doesn’t happen, it’s no less than a nightmare.

    That’s one of the reasons why I respect karma because what goes around comes around. It will not be a shock to me when their kids do the same with them because they will never know the importance of having grandparents and having connections with old people.

    The most saddening part in your surveys is that people also do it in the name of peer pressure. Like really? Well, one thing is very unclear to me that as a society 35/36 do not want to leave their parents in old age homes but the surveys say a different story. Well, the fear of being judged because deep down they know it’s wrong!
    Anyway, this us well written! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree whole heartedly to what you mentioned in your initial two paragraphs. Coming to peer pressure. Yes, shockingly it’s a reason maybe because today people want to fit in as much as possible and at any cost.
      Coming to your next point. 35/36 said they won’t leave their parents in OAH. In the next question respondents have simply selected the reasons which according to them can be the reasons leading to increasing trend of OAH in India (no matter they will succumb to this reason and abandon their parents or not.) Although I do agree to your point too that some might have chosen to say that they won’t abandon their parents simply to avoid being judged. This thing cannot be ruled out that maybe only 1 person straightforwardly admitted to abandoning his/her parents if reasons arise and others didn’t.

      Like

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