Looking After Senior Citizens

Looking After Senior Citizens

Due to an increase in life expectancy and better medical care the population of senior citizens is increasing in our state, the country and the world. India has currently the second largest population of elderly people in the world after China. The rapidly growing number of elderly people in the world population can be taken as the biggest achievement of the century. At the same time, it has led to new requirements in terms of taking care of the burgeoning segment of elderly people. The change in demography has compelled lawmakers, researchers, product manufacturers, entrepreneurs etc to undergo fresh thinking and this process is reflected in the policies and programmes of the government and international bodies. The international day for older persons which is celebrated every year on October 1 is an opportune occasion to educate ourselves on the concerns and mobilize our resources to collectively and effectively tackle the issues of ageism that has seen a new dimension with the growth in number of senior citizens. It seemed old age was never a problem in our society. However, due to changes in societal structures and lifestyle more persons are unwilling to live with their parents after the latter have become economically and emotionally dependent on them. According to a study conducted in Manipur, many elderly people who were compelled to live in old-age homes were facing verbal and physical abuses from their children and their spouses, financial constraints, loss of self-respect and unchecked health problems. Chief minister N Biren had brought the issue on a public platform some years ago admitting that, although random, mistreatment of senior citizens is increasing in Manipur. He had even cautioned that state government employees could face legal action if they are found neglecting their old-aged parents. His government has taken up several measures for taking care of the vulnerable senior citizens like maintenance grants and other benefits under CM Gi Sotharabasing gi Tengbang. However,his personal concern and piecemeal approach to the problem of ageism and neglect of older persons will not suffice to cater to their needs. Policies are coming up from the Centre but at a very tardy pace. With each passing year, the fallout of not having a concrete policy for the older people will weigh heavy on our society as well as the administration and before long it will become so insurmountable a crisis could even take shape. The planned policies should encompass the notion that it is our bounded duty to ensure that they live a meaningful and quality life, and ideally even make it very fulfilling and stimulating. They should be getting proper care for their health and wellness with adequate entertainment and recreation, companionship and emotional support. This is a perplexing situation and it will demand great efforts from us to enact effective policies. But we have to look at the right places to create a suitable system. For example, the family institutions that are present in Western countries decades and decades ago have made old-aged homes a vital part of the social set up. With greater shifting to nuclear family structure, our society is galloping at great pace towards the direction of having to arrange old-aged home facilities for our aging relatives, like what has been prevailing in the Western countries. Has the time come for us to consider and accept senior homes and old-aged facilities as a growing need in our state too? There are scores of such facilities already here. These homes are not conducive for the homeless only but can also be a place for retirement for other more privileged senior citizens whose children cannot genuinely look after their needs like regular medical care, companionship or safety. A special portion of the budget should be earmarked for taking care and ensuring safety of the increasing population of senior citizens and bringing together government, CSOs, academicians and other professionals to draft the best available system. We need a concerted effort for a stretch of time to bring up a concrete policy for bringing improvement in the lives of older people. Understandably, this is not a dilemma that we are facing alone but taking form across all parts of the globe.

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