India is a nation of young people. A lot of emphasis is therefore on the youth and their dreams, but the country also has many citizens who are in the twilight of their lives and face a lot of problems which do not get the attention which it should. These senior citizens have invaluable knowledge and wisdom, derived from years of experience and various situations in their life, which the youth can learn from. Changing family values and nuclear families being preferred over the traditional joint families, rising costs of living, among other issues are negatively impacting the lives of our elders in more ways than one. Poor healthcare facilities, dwindling savings, high medical bills and not being cared for by their own children are some of the issues that many elderly citizens are battling everyday.
Our traditional values lay stress on respecting our elders and caring for them. But as nuclear families become a norm and younger and middle aged are living a fast paced life, elders are feel isolated and emotionally insecure. This has a lot to do with our changing priorities. Now-a-days, accumulating wealth and professional success are on the top of the tree for most of us and in the process our elders and their needs are neglected.
There are currently 90 million senior citizens in our country and this number is expected to cross 170 million in the next 25 years. Apart from the economic and health problems that the elders face they are also sometimes subjected to abuse from their son/s and daughter/s-in-law.
Senior citizens belonging to the lower socio economic strata are in a worse situation. Another shocking statistic is that 75 percent of those who face abuse live with the family and 69 percent were owners of the house in which they were thrown out of. With a view to protect the interests of senior citizens the government has come up with several bills like The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, National Policy of Older persons among others. But, most of the senior citizens refrain from reporting instances of abuse.
One thing which is often ignored is the fact that our upbringing comes with a view that the ‘provider is the dictator’ and parents control the choice of their kids right till the very end and when the kid grows up the roles get reversed and then parents face the music of dictatorship. Parents should lead by example, by displaying love and affection towards their own parents and that’s the best way to teach a child how to respect his elders.
But, over and above all it’s really sad to see our elders isolated, lonely and devoid of any emotional security whatsoever. It is the job of children to take care of their parents no matter what. They should not do it out of compulsion, but out of love and care. I have seen some of the older people doing petty jobs to survive just because all their property has been usurped by their children. I wish that all those elders who have been betrayed by their own blood get immense strength and courage to fight for their rights against their children. Let us pledge to respect and care for our elders; they have a lot to offer.
In the words of Francis Bacon, ‘‘The joys of the parents are secret and so are their griefs and fears: they cannot utter the one, nor will they utter the other.’’