Dec 1, 2011

Life for the aged in modern day India

Met this woman at the grocer's. I used to come across her ever so often. In her late sixties. At library, at the park, at cultural events in our neighborhood. A sprightly, smart and lively soul. We used to engage in small talk at times. Then she dropped out of sight. After almost 3 years I saw her again. Her hair had turned white,and though she readily smiled in recognition, there was this weary look around her eyes, at the corners of her mouth. It seems her husband had died after a prolonged illness. She does have two children, but they are settled abroad; neither visited even after the news of their father's death. The other relatives are - how shall we put it?  'non-interfering', ie they do not wish to be burdened in any way with her. But life has to be lived. And so she continues.

Then there is another old lady who can barely see, but hobbles to the park twice a day. Everyday. Because otherwise she would never see or hear another human being. Again, the relatives have vanished.

This condition of old and lonely people - lonely because nobody wants to be the 'fall guy' in case they ever need help, assistance of any sort - has climbed up sharply in India in the last few decades, with the demise of the joint-family. They are left with no support network just when they really need it. And the government does a damn all about it. The old-age homes only accept people who are fit; the younger the better!


  1. In Mumbai, there are laughing clubs where I see senior citizen gather-together and spent their mornings, there are also senior citizen clubs which r organized by Dignity society, Old age is not a depressing age, its our perception and how we wish to live and learn to keep ourselves occupied. Unless we have health issues, where we might need somebody to nurse us if we cannot take care of ourselves, there is really nothing to worry or to be pitied upon....

  2. Pushpa, thanks for dropping in and commenting.
    I agree with what you say. But that is only as long as you are healthy and mobile.
    That is why I have spoken of specific cases I have seen around me. And believe me there are many more such. The lack of support network in such cases is a reality.
    And these are the ones who are usually 'invisible', for obvious reasons. Those are the ones I want to make visible.

  3. Do you really know what life can be like for someone who cannot move out of the house (or finds it difficult) and has absolutely nobody else in the house?
    This is not about invoking pity.If the reality is such then it must be presented as such.
    What is required is usually someone who might drop in everyday to see that the old person is ok, that have not slipped and fallen in their bath, do they need assistance to pay bills, or fetch groceries? or someone to even chat with for an hour. Those kind of things. Old age homes really do not take the really old and those in need of healthcare, unless you can pay through your nose for it. Which many old people might not be able to. Many of the old age homes contain people who are fit and in the age group of 65-70. Where are the 85 year olds with say arthritis supposed to go?

  4. I see a lot of small companies coming up with services like paying the bills. I wonder why none of them come up with something like this? May not be everyday but even every alternate day + on call to help them with shopping.

  5. Yes, there are such initiatives, but they lack the reach. More importantly those who really need such facility may not have the knowledge or skills required in the modern world to get in touch with the agencies. And the problem of no one to talk to still remains. We know how to access the internet but many over 70 still are not familiar with mobiles or internet.
    One solution here is a watchful and friendly neighbourhood community that keeps tabs and also helps out such aged people.