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Indian Society’s Treatment Of The Elderly Requires More Compassion And Inclusivity

Posted: October 28, 2020
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Old age still has a lot to offer. Our perceptions towards the elderly need to change as a society.

When we watch 91-year-old American Linguist Noam Chomsky speak so clearly and vehemently on contemporary topics, we wonder, what does ageing really mean?

Nevertheless, our systems unanimously mark a certain age for retirement from all public engagements and treat them as senior citizens. Then onwards, the public perception drastically changes and we start shelving their existence mostly, until and unless they voluntarily decide to remain relevant.

Opportunities for the elderly are scarce in poorer countries

In general, we don’t have enough mechanisms to keep them engaged in public life. The advanced countries might differ in their treatment of elderly with better social security and opportunities in public spaces.

However, in highly populated and poor countries, the elderly have to withdraw from their employment to make way for the unemployed youths.

Moreover, post- retirement job opportunities are very rare for them due to scarcity of job supply and also due to general perception that elderly people are mentally and physically unfit for rigorous work.

We need to engage senior citizens in public spheres

As the recent Lancet study indicates that world population will decline and the number of the elderly will rise by 2100, it is important to initiate civic measures to engage the senior citizens in public spheres.

Additionally, the society needs to be empathetic enough to understand the problems faced by them. After all, we will all be there one day.

Perceptions need to change towards the elderly

If we analyse the issues faced by the senior citizens in general, there needs to be a major overhauling in the general perception of them.

Firstly, due to high expectations about life and family responsibilities at youth, one forgets to pay attention to one’s own inner desires. So, retired life needs to be looked at as time for fulfilling those cherished but broken dreams.

However, society in general and family in particular are insensitive to these unattended aspirations of the elderly.

The second most important fear of the senior citizens is that of approaching death. Failing health and age-related ailments take a heavy toll on their confidence and will power to live.

So, they need to be kept engaged in light physical and mental activities to check negativity.

Most importantly, senior citizens often lead a powerless and lonely life. So, this is the time for a true companionship. When you have money, power and youthful charm, you attract plenty of companions. But then, you can still manage without any.

However, the aged need someone to talk to, especially for emotional support in the absence of busy children and also to hold on, when they start losing their peers to death.

So, we need to encourage them to live with a companion or peer groups.

Finally, there is a need of urgent public policies to engage the senior citizens in creativity and spaces in public to avoid constantly thinking about impending death.

Because, everyone deserves a memorable and self-fulfilling last innings in life.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Pranav Kumar Jain on Unsplash

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Dr. Jyothi, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University. Has been

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