by Chandra Gopal on  March 31, 2008 at 6:59 PM Health In Focus
Flickering Flames in the Twilight Zone: Senior Citizens
'Senior Citizens' is a term used to refer to the members of an age group who represent the passing, as well as the present, generation.

In the past, they were venerated for their wisdom. Having lived for long years, most of society's elders have a lot to offer, in terms of knowledge through their experiences.

But, in today's mad rush for more, younger folks do not have the time to listen to, or care for, the aged. Sidelining seniors is unfortunate, because society, as a whole, stands to lose.

The Golden Era

The scenario in the past was totally different. In India, all homes were 'senior-centric'. The advice of the elders was always sought. Uncles, aunts and cousins lived under the same roof and everybody had to obey the orders of the elders.

Earnings were pooled and handed over to the most senior person. All the problems were solved by consultation, no doubt, but words of the seniors were never questioned.

Medical problems or event-related house- hold expenses were all shared equally. All the festivities or marriages were celebrated under the auspices of the eldest.

The advantage of this system was that the youngsters learnt to be accommodative, a trend that is missing in the new generation. Virtues such as unity, love and humility were instilled, automatically, in the young.

In contrast, the seniors' presence, in present-day homes, is barely tolerated. In some cases, the elders are even cheated. They are coaxed to sign papers and forced to give up their property rights.

Senior citizens and the government

Indian constitution reveres the aged by allotting a special status to the learned and the wise.. They are hand-picked by President of India for the Rajya Sabha. The President of the nation is invariably a grand old man.

The Indian government has woken up late to the practical issues surrounding the aged. It has announced a few concessions in railways and taxes but that is hardly enough.

Old Age Ailments

Most of the elders suffer from ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, dementia and debility due to age. A lot of measures need to be taken to safeguard the health of the elderly.

Currently, medical insurances can be obtained for the aged by paying high premium. Free or concessional health check-ups are the need of the hour.

The health of the senior citizens should be the collective responsibility of the whole nation.

Lurking Danger

Another area of concern is their safety and security. There are dangers of onslaught by the family and society.

It is a common sight to see old people stand during bus travel. Very few come forward to help an old lady cross the road. It is this public apathy that reflects a rot in the system. Something needs to be done, and that too quickly.

Yet another worrying fact is that there is a spurt in the number of senior citizens being murdered. This highlights another issue-that of old people living alone. Many of them abhor old age homes and chose to live alone.


The majority of the seniors have completed their family commitments and look forward to spending the final phase of their lives basking in the love, care and concern of their family.

In the present day, if seniors choose to live with the extended family, they are burdened with household chores and responsibilities that far exceed their physical status.

Hence many of them prefer living separately but secretly pine for their loved ones and expect them to visit periodically to inquire about their welfare. Sadly, this seldom happens.

There is an attitude difference between the new and the older generations. Problems were always present but the earlier generations adjusted well. They learnt to sacrifice their comfort and spared the elders from tedious chores.

In some instances, they are auctioned among their own children. Old parents are forced to shift residences very often as they are 'shared' among their children. This creates a lot of emotional insecurity. Sometimes man and wife are separated which is even worse. Sometimes, they are admitted to an old age home. Most often this is due to a lack of time or interest to care for them.

Depression and Suicide in the Elderly

Retirement brings upon the aged a sudden change in their routine. That being the reality, they need to adjust to the present scenario and develop new interests.

Usually, women remain active for a long time as they are required to continue with house keeping; men, on the other hand, have very little to do and this often leads to depression among them. .

It is common for elders to be irritable, brooding and demanding. Many of them suffer from old age illnesses and some of these could be debilitating. Many of them feel like worthless strangers in their own homes. Some may have lost their life partners and others may have to suffer at the hands of faithless children.

Whatever the reason, suicides are now more common among the elderly than it has ever been before.

Instilling Interest into Fading Lives

The seniors in our community often feel that they are losing their grip on life, but there are a few things that they can do to stay in control and even keep themselves young at heart.

Negative emotions must be kept in check with activities like prayer and meditation.
It is important to remain cheerful and share happy moments with others.
It will be wise for older individuals to be mentally prepared for old age.
Accepting situations, one cannot change, may also help remedy hopeless situations
Switching over to new hobbies can rejuvenate sagging spirits. Seniors should devote more time to activities like reading, taking walks, going on a pilgrimage or visiting, which can work wonders in their lives.
Freelance writing, listening to music, watching movies, Internet surfing and making online friends can be other areas of interest to the elderly.
Doing social work is another apt area of functioning for healthy seniors.
Efforts must be made to bring cheer to their lives by spending time with family particularly their grandchildren
Elders must take care to avoid interfering with the day-to-day activities of the youngsters
They must avoid advising when their advice is not sought.

Elders crave for love from the near and dear ones and that weakness is exploited. It is best for them to live in close proximity to their children and extend help whenever they can, while enjoying their own freedom to do what they like.

For all the above to become a reality, elders will have to maintain good health. Daily exercise and routine medical checkup are a must.

Down but not out

The social framework must be rearranged in a way that society shoulders the responsibility of the elderly.

Caretakers must be made accountable and there must be a socio-legal monitoring system in place.

There is a need to spread light regarding treating our old. Although children are taught at school to respect elders they seem to forget what they have learned, when out in public.

It will indeed be wise for us to remember one thing- we are not doing our elders a favor by being nice to them; we are only paying our dues!

Source: Medindia

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