When I picked up the show, it was on a positive point, an octogenarian couple was sharing experiences of its married life – just 7-year old. That was so lively, so cute, I just hooked to it and watched the show further on and once it was over, I went on to see the full episode.
The episode of Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate was on elderly people. As usual, there were some case-studies, some memoirs, reflective perspectives, but unusually no extensive researched data-sets and some shockers like killing elderly members of family and showing it as natural death in order to get rid of them.
It was like revisiting what I have been consistently coming across in the last two years since I started researching on old-age homes.
We, as a society, are breaking – what else can we say when we see the count of old-age homes is increasing consistently. We need to accept it if we have to work it out.
I am not going to data support my words here. They are scattered, readily available. If you feel, find it, and think.
What exacerbates the erosion is most of the residents of most of the old-age homes are abandoned people financially incapable of supporting themselves.
And the experience-set of people staying at such places is representative of what has been happening in the social setup.
What I have found in the old-age homes of Delhi and nearby areas conforms to the larger picture across the country as evident from the secondary data.
The government-run shelter homes are in absolute misery. They are no better than places like ‘Asha Kirans’ or Daryaganj orphanage, killing humanity every passing moment. (Asha Kiran homes, shelter home for girls, have been notorious for suspicious death of many girls while children of the Daryaganj Arya Orphanage were sexually abused and raped by its warden and others.) And there has been flood of cases, be it Hooghly, Rohtak or Gurgaon.
The old-age homes run by NGOs and other privately managed outfits are a mixed lot with skewed balance.
Majority are run by NGOs taking in those who are financially helpless, medically unfit and abandoned. During my visits, I have found poor quality of life and lack of sensitivity that an old-age needs, at most of these places. Almost of the residents told staying at such places was a compromising choice but found the goings rational when placed in context with the humiliation extended by their own sons and daughters.
Very few are well managed but they charge a handsome amount then. Residents of such old-age homes are retired or well-to-do senior citizens, either left by their families or have no one to look after even if they have a family.
But scratch a little and you can see the dark truth. Even many of ‘this very few’ lot are sordid tale of apathy. There are good buildings with nice surroundings but what I found lacking was a sensitive nature among the support staff of such places.
What an old-age needs:
Emotional support like being given attention
Physiological support in case of exigencies like healthcare
Financial support to live an independent and dignified life
Managing and sustaining finances for any honest-intent NGO is a tough job but the first two are a must for any old-age home. There cannot be any explanation for shortfalls here.
An old-age homes means you need to have people round the clock to take care of health care needs as well as providing avenues of recreation to keep the residents busy. As rightly pointed in the show, I have found what our seniors miss most is attention. They need someone to listen to them with sincerity. It fills them with the sense of satisfaction that they so naturally need. Instead, the chores are limited to serving two meals, managing the building and collecting funds in time.
Old-age homes like ‘Aayudham’, also figured in the show, who present a holistic picture, are too few. It is one of the two options I am contemplating for Mr. and Mrs. Mehta as their health condition requires human assistance that is not there at the place they are staying. Another one is the facility for senior citizens at Shantikunj, Hardwar. Let’s see how it turns out to be.
The society is the larger whole of what has been happening in most of the old-age homes. I am not being judgmental here; the crude data say it – the mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. We need to crush the spreading tentacles of the bad and the ugly.
We need the good to magnify, the good old Indian way. All is not lost yet. Families that have lived together need to live together, always, bound by the emotional quotient, an inherent constituent of the Indian family system. There lies the hope.
But are we listening to check the growing social monster in time?
Senior citizens are slated to become the largest chunk of the Indian population in coming decades. They have to be seen as our inseparable parts, our guides and certainly not as burden.
It is their family first. It is their home first.