“Life expectancy has increased dramatically; it is another matter that old people are finding more reasons for dying than for living.”
Woodman, protect that tree !
Touch not a bough!
In youth, it protected me,
And I’ll protect it now
George Pope Morris
The other day as I was in my usual rounds in a park, a girl approached me. She introduced herself as Shibba and told me that there is a day care center for senior citizens in the adjacent old age home. She requested me to visit the center.
I was curious and reminiscent. Day care center for senior citizens on the lines of crèche or day care centers for toddlers. It is a sharp evidence of the disintegration of HOME in the traditional sense.
As the primitive hunter gatherer man adopted agriculture, there was division of labor between man and woman. It was his first step into civilization and the beginning of family.. . It was the beginning of home. A symbiotic relationship came into existence. Man became the bread earner while the woman became the home keeper or the housewife. Home emerged as an institution which assured care, love and security to children together with respect and relevance to infirm old members of the family.
Modernity has presented immense opportunities to women beyond the boundaries of home. The institution of housewife is threatened with extinction and irrelevance. As a consequence home is no longer the private space, which assures love, security and relevance to the children and elderly. Society has stepped in with day care centers to ease the situation.
Shibba led me to the first floor of the old age home via a ramp. A ramp is friendlier to the disabled and old persons as compared to stairs. There are four rooms in the day care center besides a washroom and a wide terrace. Facilities for computer learning with internet are available; library and T.V. are available in separate rooms. The books in the library are in English as well as in Hindi and Punjabi. There is a treadmill also in another room.
There were several members in the center. Shibba introduced other employees of the center to me. They were all bright persons and appeared to enjoy being there Vandana is the coordinator. Priyanka psychologist, Kiran is physician while Shibba is a trained nurse. Rina takes care of computer classes besides looking after the members of the center. Priyanka guides the members in the yoga excercises in a very persuasive and interesting manner. Health check up is done regularly by Shibba and Dr. Kiran, Members are treated with tea and light refreshments.
The center functions under the care of the social welfare Department of the U.T. Chandigarh
I met the members of the center They were nearly fifteen at that time. Hitherto unknown faces were to be close friends now on. They are from different backgrounds. They are all interesting persons each in his/her unique way.
It is a common refrain these days that old persons are not accorded due compassion, care, and respect even though their children had remained recipients of all the attention. The contrast is sought to be presented as anomaly. They say that wisdom is that you get what you give. However, is that not a very naïve view?
If you have the understanding that your loved one’s insensitivity towards you is due to his own distortions and obsessions, you are able to check yourself from straying away your compassion and love for him / her.
A person moves to the centre stage from the wings performs the role of the central character, and then his centrality begins to fade: a time comes when others overshadow him and eventually he is eclipsed. Getting old is a call to get prepared for a subsidiary role, acceptance of the process of fading. This transition is very painful, very tortuous. One’s being seems to be questioned. Sense of pride, acceptance, achievements, and purpose appear to have been challenged and denied. So many responsibilities remain only partially taken care of, so many dreams; so many plans seem to be waiting for our attention. Only we can fulfill them, we must do that. To accept that our time is over, that we are now irrelevant, is not easy.
The model of solar system can illustrate the complex dimensions of relationships in a family. Parents constitute the nucleus (Sun) around which their sons and daughters are located in their individual orbits like planets. The strong centripetal force of the nucleus together with the comparative weaker centrifugal forces of the planets keeps the family going. With passage of time, the centripetal force gets on waning and simultaneously the centrifugal forces go on waxing. This results in the weakening of the bondages of the family. Each progeny now begins to evolve in the identity of a nucleus; they develop their independent and separate solar systems. Planets just erase their earlier identity; New solar systems evolve while the old one perishes.
Progeny grows to be adult and become independent of parents—physically as well as emotionally. New horizons, dimensions, and challenges, unknown up until now, keep on emerging. Call of fulfillment not merely charms him but takes him in its grip too. Nevertheless, the parents do not get any other focus away from their progeny. This results in their being threatened with becoming irrelevant. State of disequilibrium emerges. Asian societies are struggling with this problem of disequilibrium in the present phase of their development.
Parental bondage with progeny is a natural proclivity in order to maximize reproductive success. Nature provides no motivating basis for progeny allocating energy for the preceding generation. Nevertheless, society needs it intensely. Therefore, such ideas and emotions need to be inculcated and cultivated. Instincts will not help. Society and family are required to be aware of their indispensable roles towards this end. Interest of nature is taken care of by instincts; Human society needs a protocol of value-system and conscience to take care of its health. Care of ageing and unproductive persons belongs to this category.
Nature has, to serve its own end, has programmed the behavior and emotions of organisms in a manner so that parental love is spontaneous and proactive. On the other hand, it has no interest or need in reciprocal bondage for parents. However, the society has. Therefore, such bondages and ideas are developed and cultivated; these are called values. Values constitute the protocol of society and family.
Impulses take care of nature’s purpose. However, human society cannot do without conscience and value system. Old age homes and Day care centers are the manifestation of social conscience.
A strong sense of humor proves to be an indispensable resource in the journey of life. Often mutually exclusive opportunities present themselves. We are dumbfounded when our mission is achieved yet though successful
Such is the decree of nature that parents impatiently and worriedly wait for the day when their children would grow to be adult and independent; and then that looked-for day presents itself! The moment of moving out of the nest arrives: though indications are available much before, when the child begins to lose interest in jumping to your lap. Emotional experience of such a mother, “When my nine years child began to show annoyance with my kisses and holding my hands in presence of people was irritating to him, my heart was broken. It was more frustrating than when my first lover had deserted me. It all happens so suddenly! You had been everything of the universe of your child and in just one moment, you are redundant as the toy of the previous year. As our children grow, we are undergoing a real tortuous process inside ourselves. Every time when their steps move forward toward self-reliance, we experience pride and joy; but we are also filled with anguish and fretfulness. Some among us are filled with a feeling of deprivation. They are worried that their children no longer need them. They are not able to decide as to what to do. Almost all accept, they have suddenly grown old. Loving a person who, you know, will one day leave you is an experience of sweetness and bitterness at the same time. We bring up our children only for the preparation of their departure. Our children do not remain our children for all time, though we remain parents till we live.