Elderly expect love and warmth from children and society – Mahesh Chand Sharma, Chairman, AAP International

“India is improving.” We often read and hear it through newspapers, articles, reports, speeches, etc. Although it looks good from the outside and you feel proud about it, the inner story speaks the opposite. How are senior citizens treated in our society? Just ask yourself, how much time you spend with your parents or for how long you haven’t spoken to them? Well, as we grow old, we begin to forget that our parents are getting older too. In the race of earning money and chasing comfort, we have turned selfish, insensitive, and uncaring. That’s today’s harsh reality, which everyone, especially the younger generation do not realise.

In the fast-paced life, we are brutally damaging our traditional social structures with an ungrateful attitude towards the elderly. We have forgotten the efforts that our parents put into raising us. We have overlooked their sacrifices and continued to live a life of self-obsession with no regards to elders. We have left them alone when they need us the most. In our jobs, we follow ethics; we follow various guidelines; however, in real life, we have turned humanity into a meaningless thought. It seems that “educated is the new uncivilised.”

In India, countless cases speak about the worsening lives of elderly and senior citizens. A report says that the global elderly population is expected to grow more than 200 per cent and reach up to 2 billion by 2050. It is envisioned that senior citizens alone would account for 20 per cent of the total population. Now imagine, if this massive populace would not be taken care of and treated unfairly and that too by their own children, would we be able to justify “India is improving”?

A large number of elderly in our country are left abandoned with no mental, physical, economic or emotional care. Many are even deprived of the essential services in the hour of need. In the coming years, only a small portion of people would be entitled to receive pensions after retirement; and, more than 50 per cent of this population will rely on others. Sadly, senior women face more economic challenges despite several women empowerment initiatives in the country.

Leading a life with no steady income followed by other concerns such as high healthcare costs, poor safety and security, loneliness, mental ailments, etc., are the darkest times for anelderly human. Also, those who stay with their families do not get adequate support and care that they deserve. In such times, NGOs are the real heroes and the immediate caregivers of the elderly. Many such organisations in India are working in the same direction and are successfully providing senior citizens with a dignified life when they are abandoned.

NGOs are gradually multiplying in India and are facilitating homecare and hospice services for senior citizens combined with basic geriatric healthcare facilities. There is a huge chunk of agedpeople who can’t afford treatment and daily essentials. Hence, numerous NGOs provide free medical and health care to many needy and underprivileged elderly. A large number of such organisations have also taken initiatives to open hospitals especially dedicated to the senior citizens of India.

There is another question that comes as a shock to all – why should we only expect children to be responsible for their parents? It is also the responsibility of the society to engage them in various entertaining activities, and break the bubble of loneliness they are living in. At such age, people need warmth, love and care not only from their families but society too. Several NGOs are thus striving to ensure that they don’t feel unloved.

These NGOs also assess their achievements and accordingly address their weak points to improve their offerings to the elderly. They understand that stuffing these people into the old-age homes is not the way, but offering them a homely environment, which is fueled with love and care. There are many NGOs in India whose names keep coming out as renowned newspapers publish their stories. Now, imagine how many more would be existing that are silently working on the same cause and thus helping senior citizens live a better life.

Honest work has been appreciated across India with various NGOs winning awards and recognition. However, in a country like ours, which has such a huge population of senior citizens, more needs to be done. The number of elderly is only going to increase in the coming years, and to give them a happy life, the government should take an increasing number of corrective measures.

Most importantly, there is a need to bring change in the attitude of people; the mindset towards holistic healthcare should be encouraged, and everyone should empathise with the elderly.

In this mad race for fame and becoming rich in a quick-fix manner, the children have forgotten the rich values and ethics. They have no gratitude for parents, elders and teachers, who have been instrumental in shaping their lives. People, societies and nations at large can’t flourish if they fail to respect and care for the elders. They are our roots, so, let’s nurture these roots and help them stand tall in their twilight days and enjoy the real bliss of life. All of these small steps together will create a new India for the elderly, where they can lead a peaceful life.