Mental Health Crisis of Aging

Crisis of  mental health of aging is the prime burden of successful aging to-day. In order to discuss this aging issue, we have to understand phases of human life. There are two phases in a human life – (i) the forenoon phase and (ii) the afternoon.  The forenoon phase is the initial phase of life for preparing oneself (i.e. education, occupation, marriage, rearing of family and social citizenship responsibility, and so forth).  On the other part, afternoon phase (i.e. middle age of life) directs to follow the principle of detachment (i.e. limitation of activities outside for earning and spiritual development, etc.).  It guides to adopt inner culture of life beyond routine work of money-making, social existence and family and other duties.  There are many types of institutions at the forenoon stage. But in the afternoon stage, there is limited institution (only religious institution) to deals with this phase.  Therefore, psychic hygiene of elderly becomes leads a burden and it leads unhappy death.

Critical living of elderly is due to bad impact of the global cultural bound syndrome. The elderly changes their lifestyle and life choices. Their consumerised life style is physical suffering and a lower quality of day to day life. In aging life, detachment and renunciation are rare and there is absence of voluntary simplicity and spirituality in daily life, particularly, aging of the better-off section. This is prime cause of mental illness.

Secondly due to several socioeconomic, cultural and political changing factors varying with the changing time, the family has been broken from extended/joint family(grandparents + parents + children) to nuclear  family(parents + child(ren)) Elderly hardly have space to this nuclear family. But several studies opine/argue that the family is the best space for elderly at their last days from all respects. There is no alternative of it.

Mental health of elderly is in poor and adverse condition because of their detachment from family and immediate members. They always want to pass their last days with all of their family members. But the members of their families do not realize their essence in the family. They consider elderly as burden because elderly would hamper their happiness. Elderly has no importance comparing to their life style. In some cases, they prefer to depute paid care-givers instead of voluntary care-givers(elderly). As a consequence of this, they feel neglected, loss of importance in the family, loneliness and feeling of un-wantedness in family as well as society, feeling of inadequacy and obsolescence of skills, education, and expertise.

We have to understand the multilayered importance in every phase of civilization. It protects the interest of members, ensures safety and security, integrates values, respect and disciplines and renews the race with the unique system of duties and responsibilities according to the age and the gender of the members in a family. It is a place of nurturing a new born and on the other part, it cares elderly till their last day. Even after death, they are respected through performing particular rituals.

Living with the family member with care would surely improve mental health of elderly.  Elderly may also follow the rules of the ‘Vanaprastha’- the third stage (according to the Manusmirti and the other Hindu’s scriptures) for successful aging.

Last of all, protection of elderly might save a family from its day to day broken and truncated structure.


More by :  Dr. Harasankar Adhikari

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