As nuclear families are becoming a trend in urban India the number of old age homes is also increasing. So are we losing our love for our parents and they are becoming a burden? We try to find out the answers.
You can’t rely on your children to look after you when you grow old!
When I started my financial journey the first thing that my financial advisor asked me was how much do I plan on saving for my future. Looking at the confused expression on my face he continued – “So you can’t expect your children to look after you and so you need to save some money for yourself. How much do you think you will save?” He went on to explain how I need to look for myself, detailing the different savings and income schemes, explained the rates of cheap apartments which might be required in the future since as he said before – “You simply can’t rely on your children to look after you”.
The financial advisor couldn’t be more correct. The Indian boomer generation (born between 1946 – 1964) who are now very well in their 60s and above is an isolated lot. Out of compulsion or by choice they are mostly left to themselves away from the care of their children and grandchildren. The fortunate ones live their final years in their own or ancestral home, while the not-so-fortunate ones in tiny rented apartments or worse are left to rot in old age homes. Irrespective of where these old people live out their final days the bitter truth still remains, that is most of these retired people spend their final years in utmost loneliness and isolation devoid of any contact from their sons, daughters or grandchildren.
Changing landscape of job and effects of globalization on lifestyle
It is not always as though people don’t want to care for their parents. Changing Socioeconomic landscape and lifestyle needs are very different from the previous generation where there were ample jobs for everyone in the same city and people were content with a little income to support their humble lifestyle. Globalization has brought the world closer and has brought incredible changes in our lifestyle. For example, eating out in the 60s 70s or going on a vacation to a foreign destination was mostly considered a luxury in the previous generations while today out of peer pressure and the internet has become somewhat necessary.
Now affording such a lifestyle while easy today requires certain changes and sacrifices. In most cases, people need to take work in Tier-I cities or abroad. Due to the expenses in these cities, they often struggle to rent a spacious apartment, and hence migrating with their parents is not a viable option. As a result of this, parents are often left behind in their hometown longing for an annual or half-yearly visit from their family.
Increasing Violence on Senior Citizens
Nilkanta (70) retired bank employee and widower who lives by himself in his ancestral home in Calcutta was recently found tied to his bed and his apartment ransacked, his cash and valuables were stolen. Meanwhile, Nilkanta’s domestic help has gone missing and police are on the lookout. This incident of Nilkanta is not an isolated one. Crime rates against old people are on the rise with Maharashtra reporting the highest crime rates against the old population. The children of these senior citizens who move abroad or to other cities for their jobs or businesses often need to rely on domestic help or localities to take care of their parents. Hence it is no surprise when this domestic help turns on to take advantage of the situation and incidents like Nilkanta’s happen.
Things are even worse at Old age homes since cases of violence are often reported against the residents at these homes. It is occasionally alleged that the owners of these homes misappropriate the funds received by taking less or care of the residents. The senior residents are mostly left to languish with limited nutrition and healthcare facilities at these retirement homes. The increased number of such old-age homes is also making it difficult for the government and police to monitor them effectively and hence many of such incidents go unreported.
The way forward and what we can do to reduce such incidents
Of course, for every cloud, there is a silver lining and things are changing slowly.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and increasing trend of remote workforce millennials are choosing to work from home. On one hand, they can reduce expenses while living in their hometown and on the other they can also take care of their parents in the process.
Many millennials in rural areas and Tier 2 cities are also opting to join family businesses due to increasing competition in cities and increasing scope for Small-medium businesses thanks to the E-Commerce boom in India.
Due to an increasing network of App-based and e-commerce based businesses people can now take care of their parents by sending in all necessary foods, medicines, and rations at their parent’s doorsteps.
While awareness is the best antidote to this issue, we can learn from a few developed countries which have come up with some innovative solutions to help their aging population. One of such solutions includes integrating old age homes with schools or kindergartens. This helps alleviate the feelings of loneliness in the senior citizens and they can also provide the much-needed personalized care to the toddlers who also long for their otherwise busy parents.
Arunava Bhattacharya, DNI: