“I enjoy talking with very old people. They have gone much before us on a road by which we too may have to travel; I think we do well to learn from them what it is like,” - Socrates
Elderly are the valuable assets of our society who help the youngsters to evolve, who toiled their yesterday for our bright today. But owing to different changes in our society like change in the demographic profile, radical transformation of the society, particularly changing structure of the family and within family changing roles for women -which in the past was sole caretaker of elderly people, the care of the elderly has emerged as a difficult problem to be tackled.
In this materialistic world, everyone is short of time even their children to whom they have dedicated everything,seems indifferent towards them. These changes have weakened the respect for the elderly and the commitment to support the elderly.
In traditional societies, the family has been the most natural and conducive social unit for the care and support of the elderly. The care and support was provided by members of extended families.
Such care giving attitude and support was not only backed by the emotional bonds of relationship emerging from blood or affinal relationships but by the compelling force of pervasive influence of traditional value and normative system.
Caring of the elderly by family members, especially children and grand-children, has been a practice down the ages. Aged persons had a vital role to play in the family and in society. They also enjoyed social security against infirmities, losses and had the privilege of being cared for by the younger generations. They were accorded a high status as decision-makers in the joint family system.
Such value system is absent in the modern society where high priority is accorded to educating ones children in reputed institutions at the cost of elderly parent’s share of care and income.
Elderly, who grew up in a joint family, where there were many people around to communicate with, find themselves now in a situation where even their own children are unavailable. This author has a tale to share, with which everyone among us must be encountering with.
Once while travelling from Kashmir University to LalChowk and an old lady sitting nearby was narrating story of her children who had abandoned her. She was telling that her children to whom she dedicated her savings and her health are neglecting her at the time when she needed them most and while narrating her ordeal the tears were continuously rolling down her cheeks.
For a moment I felt that she may be from a poor family but on asking about that the lady replied that all her children are placed at the good posts and drawing a handsome salary and their children are studying in the best schools of the city.
This is perhaps the story of every aged person. Nodoubt, we have to provide good education to the children so that they can compete in every field of life, but at the same time there is a need to enrich them with the rich cultural heritage which will instil in them a spirit of respect and great care towards our societal norms and values.
Besides, every religion teaches us to be sympathetic and humble towards elderly people, why can’t we take on board the elderly lot of our society.
The family is the safest heaven for every elderly person and nothing in this world can replace the family. The elderly need much emotional support which can be provided only by the families.
The elderly also expect economic and social support from family members as their economic productivity and physical strength declines with advancing years.
But unfortunately, elderly these days are leading lonely lives fraught with anguish. They feel disconnected from society and disassociated from their families, where life progresses and burden becomes harder to bear.
While people are trying to make their lives better by focusing on their careers, they are forgetting their parents and leaving them behind homes and forget to offer them the support their parents need.
One of the most drastic changes that take place is the one that occurs between a parent and their children. Parents take care of children when they were young, and now the roles have reversed and they need to be taken care of.
So the children should make it their moral obligation to provide support and care to the elderly parents with the same passion and zeal as does their parents when they were young.
Even the elderly in their old age believe that the obligation to provide care to their grandchildren is more important and this is not out of duty but for the satisfaction it gives to them and this obligation is also of heart, which in later years no longer remain in the hearts of children.
One should always remember that parents have spent their heart and soul for their well-being so; it is not good to alienate them or leave them alone in their old age.
The adult children should realize that family support is very important and one doesn’t need to invest a lot of time or effort to provide it.
Even busy professionals can take a few minutes out of their day to pay attention to their parents. There is a need to stand up to the expectations of elderly people and integrate them in the mainstream society and create a more supportive environment for them in the families.
Besides, there is also a need to inculcate values, respect and regard for the elderly in the younger generation who are showing a declining respect towards them.
There is no need to add years to their life and bring a smile on their faces, so that they may spend their last stage of life with ultimate joy and happiness.
Author is a research scholar, Department of Social Work, University of Kashmir