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Opinion: Many reasons of ‘why old-age homes are must today’

By Vanshika Garg
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Opinion: Many reasons of ‘why old-age homes are must today’

As the world celebrated Senior Citizen Day early this week, many headlines ran informing and reminding us about the abuse children do with their elderly parents. Many newspapers made fancy yet striking stat-charts of various aspects of senior citizens; NGOs and governments talked about the rights, privileges, and schemes for 60+; and few once again rose their voice with the negative notion that old age homes exist because parents are abandoned.

Well, by looking at the everyday bold banners claiming ‘Son threw mother out of home’ or ‘Daughter-in-law misbehaved, gave no food to sick father’, it is apparent to think that many shelter homes have emerged due to stranded parents walking alone at the tough age of their life.  To a great extent, it is a harsh fact that in the contemporary world our aged citizen are not leading a secured life, which often walks them out of home taking shelter in rescue-houses. However, every coin has two sides.

While many grieving tales of abuse to senior citizens reside in these homes, the same roof shares few stories that hold a positive vibe too.

There have been many transformations in recent years that our lifestyles have changed to a great extent – some for the better while a few with negative consequences. The young population has been reaping the benefits however, the senior citizens face certain problems as a consequence of the social transformation. This is reflected in the transition from the traditional ways of life to the modern patterns which require many compromises and adjustments, one of these involving ‘Old Age Homes’!

To understand the concept of old age homes, one must unfold the pages dating five-six decades back but at the same time, consider the contemporary situation full of demographical stats.

Firstly, if we go back to five decades from now to see the life pattern of elders and chronologically trace the developments that led to the slow yet steady changes that were necessitated by circumstances, one will realise that there was the much-acclaimed joint family system wherein elders lived with not only their children but also with sisters, brothers, uncles and aunts. The social fabric was well-woven. However, the scenario changed slowly and steadily with the decline or disappearance of the joint family system, which was replaced by the nuclear family system. Adding to the factors how and why families shrunk over the time also includes the major change in the traditional system of society where the lady of the house was once within four walls, looking after the younger and elder ones. As of now, the scenario is changing as the women are also participating in activities outside the home and have their own career ambitions.

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There is nothing wrong with women dreaming and aspiring to become successful in life. Is it? Anybody and everybody have the right to choose and live the life they wish for. But targeting the women section solely being responsible for the shoddier condition of elder today would be unfair.

A 50-year analysis would reveal the great transformation. Many reasons may be attributed for this change. While maximum reported cases reveal that elders had been abused and abandoned by their kids and relatives, there are other sides to the situation. Today, the senior citizen are alone possibly because of one or two child, unlike old times where parents had at least five to eight kids. Many of the children have been serving to the nation by participating in navy, army, air-force for which they have to leave behind their parents. There are a number of parents with no sons but only daughters, who are married off to another house, leaving the parents alone. There are even those aged couples who never had any child for their own reasons.

Considering the present day situation – be it due to the fading joint family system in India or personal choices – the innumerable factors have given rise to west-inspired phenomena of old age homes. Alternative housing for the aged is a practical lifestyle solution that developers are now ready to provide.

It is so because India, which takes pride in its young demographic, is actually undergoing a massive transition. While 8 per cent of its population, that accounts to 104 million people, was recorded 60 years and above in 2011 Census, it is expected to increase its share to 12.5 per cent, that is 158.7 million elderly people by 2025, and accordingly 20 per cent by 2050 respectively. This brings with it several sociological and medical problems which most states have not even begun to fathom.

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With this kind of an ageing scenario, there is pressure on all aspects of care for the older persons – be it financial, health or shelter. With the onset of the 21st century, the growing security of older persons in India is very visible.

For older people who have nowhere to go and no one to support them, old age homes provide a safe haven. These homes create a family like atmosphere among the residents. Senior citizens experience a sense of security and friendship when they share their joys and sorrows with each other. They are in constant company of people their own age.