Few decades ago, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers spent their days working in the fields or any such outdoor activities and came back home by dusk to just eat and sleep after a strenuous day. Not many except the elite were educated. Their days went in hard physical work and nights in a sound sleep that was worth all the hard work. Those who suffered from any disease either got cured most commonly by natural immunity or if it had to be the worst outcome, they died. That was their way of life. Life expectancy was not even 60 years.
The situation today is far different. Life expectancy has increased and many can celebrate by becoming centenarians. The old aged especially, what would they do when they don’t have to work in the fields and after their retirement from their formal jobs? Not many jobs can be continued even after retirement. To those people, the only pastime becomes playing with the grandchildren if they are around, watching the TV and such simple activities.There seems to be a kind of vacuum in their lives which is harder to fill. To those who have lost their life partner, it is still harder. I have heard my father talk in despair when he feels he has nothing to contribute now to the society. He becomes sad and sometimes irritable and my mother tries to pacify him. That also is perceived by him as ‘pity’ and not otherwise. It is usual for him to hear about many of the friends and relatives of his age die. We are very happy that he had a new lease of life after he underwent surgery for benign prostatic hypertrophy and later for pacemaker insertion as his heart had slowed down due to age related changes. I always thank the advancement of the medical field for saving innumerable such lives when treated in time. He has been successfully living with diabetes and hypertension from the past forty and odd years. This is not only a personal triumph but of the whole aged population who have been successfully aging, fighting all odds.
In my opinion, they should not think that they are not contributing to the society. Whatever bit they can do to the limited number of people around them, and taking as much responsibility of themselves as possible is more than enough. There needs to be a self- motivation to keep themselves engaged and happier. It is however harder to convince for learning new things which they would not have done before. It is highly difficult to initiate new techniques. For example, if my mother asks my father to try meditation, he gets highly irritated! But he loves to go for a walk or to read newspaper. I feel that being a literate, capable to read and write is one of the greatest blessings for anyone. I wonder what he would do if there’s no newspaper. He doesn’t want to get acquainted with the smartphone. He owns only the older version of mobile and that too only for calls. I feel that he is representative of the behaviour of majority of people of his age. They cannot be grouped into either very old fashioned or modern.
There is a need for empathy and not sympathy for the aged people. They must be left to decide what feels good for them to do. They must be given as much of convenience and aids as possible both at home and outside, especially when they need to travel out in case they need to visit a hospital or any other necessary business. It is highly recommended that the outside world is old-aged friendly. For example, even though seats are reserved for old aged in a public transport, the others hardly leave the seats to the vulnerable. This is something that has to be learnt without any one saying. Having lifts in working conditions, a separate queue for the old aged at offices, temples and other public places makes it easier for them to explore their own world. Otherwise, just for the fear of them being vulnerable, they hardly decide to go out of the house.
Financially empowering the aged is another challenge both for the family and the government. Without that, there is no good quality of life as they feel miserable and helpless, unable to meet their daily basic necessities. Everything comes at a cost. Moreover, with age, chronic diseases are evidently becoming more common and they need to take regular medications as well as a healthy diet. Taking care of their mental health is also required as many conditions like depression, stress and anxiety etc go un- noticed and not cared for especially of the aged. It is a great privilege to have our elders around us as we always feel younger in front of them and being blessed by them. Their intellect might have decreased but their experience and knowledge is something that comes only with age. For example, the best remedy for sleeplessness according to our elders is to work hard physically as the body needs rest naturally after hard work!
Aging successfully is on the international agenda as some countries are already aged whereas many countries are slowly aging with new challenges to face with regard to the unique problems of the elderly. It is an important task for the society to balance their busy life schedule taking cognizance of their aged counterparts and for the government to make suitable policies for the welfare of the aging population which can make aging both successful and graceful.