Voices crying for a friendly word, nothing more
Taking care of parents in their old age is a part of Indian Culture. Sadly what was once an unquestioned part of one’s heritage is slowly coming apart with more senior citizens finding themselves in an old age home or one that is a parody of a senior citizen’s home.
In the past all important decisions and resolution of conflicts were resolved by the head of the family — the parents. In today’s world this is considered to be an anachronism especially when the world has become a cyber village and travel to a different country, a different life and an exposure to a different culture are common. The huge joint families are now reduced to nuclear families.
The changing economic scenario, life style have all contributed to the phenomena of putting elders in old age homes.
I contacted some of the old-age homes in the city and was surprised to learn that the number of people being admitted to old-age homes has been increasing drastically in recent years.
It made sense in the 60s or 70s even the 80s for all to stay together so that money could be pooled and so on, but finding a job abroad that offers lucrative salaries and perks is relatively easy today.
Couple find themselves being forced to settle at their places of work , either in some distant part or even abroad., making visiting India not an economically viable proposition. The result is that many urbanized couples find that the only option left is to admit their parents to old age homes, with the thought that there at least someone to look after them.
This has indeed led to a boom in the Elder’s Home business in metros like Bangalore which offer literally Five star comforts. It costs around Rs 13,000 per person at one such elder’s home. However parents do need the company of their children in the autumn of their lives.
The other major reason for the rise in the number of elderly being admitted to such old age homes is the growing intolerance and discontent among youth of the present generation, especially after they marry, as the couple find it extremely difficult to adjust to the traditional values and conventional style of living which the parents insist must be adhered to. This is the most commonly cited reason and the married children try to get away from their parents and start living separately.
Surviving old age becomes extremely painful, especially when one is terminally ill or bedridden and there is no one to take care of. Even performing simple tasks like making a cup of coffee or taking bath becomes painful. With children busy with their jobs and other social activities, attending to the aged parents at home, who sometimes need constant attention and care, becomes difficult. Even grandchildren prefer company of kids of their own age, making these elders feel even more lonely.
There are also aged parents are so fed up and deeply hurt with the neglect and insults meted out to them by their own wards, they simply allow them to leave the house and stay separately, in spite of having to survive on their own. The matter becomes more even complicated if they are not financially independent and have to depend on their children for sustenance. It hurts their pride to ask their children for money. They rather prefer to stay at old-age homes than go through the daily routine of tantrums and neglect.
How parents view this situation has to be seen from an economic perspective. The aged parent with a pension or some other financial security is in a more psychologically better situation, then parents who have to depend solely on their children. Some linger on in old age homes, others give psychologically.
A parent’s sacrifice, if that is the right word, cannot be measured by using some benchmark. In the Indian tradition or it would be more appropriate to call of the South Asian tradition, a child is cared for, educated and married off. It’s considered to be a parent’s duty. The flipside of this tradition is that the now grown-up man or woman is expected to care for the old parents.
The swiftly changing work ethos, the world itself becoming a global village, better life-styles which mean that both partners work, has created a situation, seen often enough, where this simply no time for aged parents. In this transition, even the old joint family houses have been replaced by housing unit.
As parents get old and become dependent, children should spend some time with them and care for them, instead of considering them as a burden. Isn’t it time we paid back for all that we have received from them and made us what we are today? Why can't we build a new world, staying with parents and loving, res-pecting and sheltering them? They don't need a luxurious life. All they expect is a few soothing words and a shoulder to lean upon, so that they don’t feel let down by their own children.
To better understand the feelings of the aged, I interviewed a couple of elderly residents. Here are there responses: "I am indeed quite fortunate to live with my children and grand children, in today’s world that is aping the West. When I play with my grandchildren, I completely forget myself. I am becoming younger day by day", says 67-year-old Rukmaniamma who is leading a wonderful life with her family members.
Rohini, a 30-year old said, "Misunderstanding among family members has resulted in creation of old age homes. It is our duty to look after our parents, instead of deserting them. It is they who have brought us to this position. With out them we would never have reached this level."
Did you know ?
Children are legally bound by law and it is their duty to take care of their aged parents.
'The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007' enacted by the Government of India stipulates that children as well as heirs to property of a parent/senior citizen are duty bound to provide for the maintenance of their parents and senior citizens. The Act clearly stipulates that senior citizens can claim for maintenance from their children or legal heirs of their property.
The Act further stipulates that the case has to be disposed off by the concerned Tribunal within 90 days from the date of service of the notice and that there is no need to hire a lawyer, making it easier for the elderly to get due justice.
Under the Act, transfer of property, by gift or otherwise, can be declared void if legal heirs to senior citizen’s property refuse to provide for maintenance of the senior citizen.