In the sunset years of their lives
A cheery 82-year-old Dwarkanath is happy to receive visitors. With an infectious energy, he says, “I am happy to be here, like others, as we know we have nowhere to go. Though we have families, they are busy with their own lives.
This is our only world.” Like Dwarkanath, hundreds of elderly people, owing to reasons like desertion by family, lack of security, and children who are settled in another city are forced to move into old-age homes. On the ‘International Day of Older Persons’, Metrolife takes a look at a situation that is becoming common.
“The trend is not very pleasing as there has been a tremendous increase in the number of old-age homes in the City,” says Robert, senior manager at HelpAge India, an NGO. He explains, “In 2009, there were less than 100 old-age homes in the City. Today, there are about 163 of these, apart from retirement homes. There has been about 40 per cent increase in the last few years. On an average, the occupancy rate is 90 per cent, which means most of the old-age homes are full.”
The NGO conducts surveys every year and the last survey on elder abuse indicated that many elderly people choose old-age homes due to abuse from children and extended family members. However, old-age homes are not as heartless a place as people think these to be, says Mukund R, an IT professional.
He observes, “We paint a very negative picture of old-age homes, but I think if the place is well-run, the elderly will get constant medical care and they will be supervised by someone. It is better to stay with people of their age, so that they can talk instead of waiting for their kids the whole day, who, most of the time don’t have time for their parents. However, even today people raise eyebrows if a man is sending his parents to an old-age home. I don’t think I will be able to do it, even if I want to, as it would break my parents’ hearts. But I don’t think it is as horrifying as it seems.”
On the other hand, it is depressing, says Hareesh, an MNC employee. He says, “There may be situations, where elderly people have to stay alone or may have adjustment issues, but that does not mean they should be left in old-age homes. Old age is a very tender phase and that is why it is considered to be second childhood. Elders need more attention than before. I would never support people who send their parents to old-age homes. I’d advise them that if the situation demands it, then change the situation.”
Interestingly, most of the people who come to old-age homes cite adjustment issues as the reason, says Girija Hegde, who is in charge of a private trust. She says, “The lifestyle of working couples has changed over the years and aged people find it tough to share a common ground with their children. Also, for security purposes, they prefer staying in an old-age home instead of being locked up at home the whole day.” Whether old-age homes get full support or not, going by the increasing numbers of such homes, it sure indicates that more people are knocking on their doors.