Saturday, December 3, 2011

Life Without Responsibilities

I received the following mail from a friend who is an NRI parent, and who has recently moved into an upmarket senior citizen`s home with her husband after deliberating on the move for several months.

"We have settled well at Clasic Kudumbam. The atmosphere is friendly and healthy. The day starts with a morning walk in the pleasant surroundings. After an early lunch [very delicious] .we read books or browse through them. After some rest we have our afternoon tiffin/coffee.
By 4p.m we have yoga class and group recitation of shlokas on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; a discourse on Bhagavat Gita for 1hr on Sunday. We made some new friends. What else we want at this age. The Bank officials bring cash and collect cheque from us. I feel life has become very easy, free of worries and I thank God for that…"

My mother-in-law, a highly independent woman who died at the ripe age of 89, spent the last six years of her life in a good Senior citizen home. I would bring her home for a week every month in the early years. One day, she apparently told my driver; “I don’t know why my son-in-law brings me home every month. I am very happy in the home with a lot of new friends to talk to and I am free to do what I like. Here I spend the whole day only watching TV or listen to music. Everybody is so busy…!

I also met a few others from that Home, many of whom had sold their properties or rented out their homes to settle down in the well run Senior citizen Home. Here they not only made new friends but also indulged in hobbies for which they had no time earlier. Even the few, who felt bad initially, began to enjoy the new environment later. All of them agreed it was a comfortable life without the day to day responsibilities and problems faced when living alone.

No problem of running after the “hard-to-get” plumber, electrician, carpenter, or the ordeal of wading through the heartless traffic of the city to visit the bank, post office or other places; or living in fear of unscrupulous elements who have started attacking senior citizens staying alone in cities like Chennai.

Though some of them had their children living in the same city, still preferred to move into a Senior Citizen Home as they did not want to burden their children looking after them on a day to day basis. With the joint family system breaking down and nuclear families being the norm these days, old people find themselves to be of nuisance value to their children. There are also cases of old people who don’t have the energy or mindset to look after their grand children with office going parents. Obviously the old values are changing where people, both young and old, are becoming more self centered.

Though some children do not want their parents to live in a Senior Citizen`s Home because of the social stigma attached to it, many old people who can afford convince their children and move out to lead an independent life. They are content if their children are in touch with them regularly on the phone or visit them in their homes whenever they find time; and if they have energy to travel, also attend family functions where they can touch base with other relatives.

It is no more a stigma on the children if their parents voluntarily choose to stay in senior citizen homes which provide them the necessary independence, comfort and the company of new friends with similar backgrounds.

Senior Citizen Homes with attached hospices or with facilities for providing full time attenders are alternatives which can be considered by working couples who have old and infirm people who need constant help and attention. (People who try to hire such attenders to look after bed ridden old folks at their own homes have to contend with the idiosyncrasies of such attenders who not only add to the tension with their unreasonable demands but who sometimes take off without warning, leaving the family in lurch!)

No wonder, in order to cater to the growing number of senior citizens who want to lead a carefree and independent life in the company of like minded friends, scores of senior citizen homes are sprouting up all over the country. According to a report there are 4000 dwelling units in various retirement homes across India which may see a five fold jump in the next three years! While there are enough such Homes coming up to look after the economically well off senior citizens, such facilities are woefully lacking for middle and lower class people. A lot more could be done by the Govt or NGOs with support from corporate sector in this area..

Having visited a few such homes and seen the good times that many of the inmates are having, I would say it is an option worth considering by people who have reached the end of their useful lives and who are financially independent; to spend their twilight years in peace and contentment.

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