A matter of co-existence

Senior citizen population at present has gone up to over 100 million.

Recently, I was cautiously negotiating my car at a traffic island in my locality, notorious for its blatant traffic violations. A group of middle school children who were impatiently waiting to cross over to the other side of the island couldn’t stand my slow manoeuvre. “Come on, oldie!  Get going fast. Which fool gave you licence to drive!” shouted one of them which evoked peals of laughter from the boisterous group as they crossed over. Seeing my stunned reaction, my wife who was seated by my side pacified me. “Don’t blame these children,” she said. “They are only reflecting the way we seniors are looked upon by some.”

What she said is thought-provoking indeed. Due to the progressive reduction in the mortality rate attributable to improved medical facilities and health awareness campaigns over the last few decades, our country’s senior citizen population at present has gone up to over 100 million. This elderly section of the society has to inevitably fall in step with the fast-moving stream of a highly sophisticated younger generation and here lies, for both, the unspoken challenge of maintaining a harmonious equilibrium. 

The complexity of this demographic structure that has emerged in the natural process obviously calls for a certain level of understanding and appreciation of the limitation of each stratum to achieve the same.

We go for evening walks to a park in our locality where a “Senior citizens’ zone” has been thoughtfully created providing an open-air gym with fitness equipment exclusively suitable for the elderly. Most of the time, however, this zone is occupied by youngsters and the middle-aged. 

Even when the seniors get their chance they can’t help feeling awkward to work out with their age-related infirmities before the youngsters.
 A few days back I happened to be at a local post office for some work when I noticed an elderly gentleman in his late-seventies with a painful limp seeking preference over others in the long queue for updating his pass book - as a gesture of consideration in the absence of a separate queue for seniors. Pat came a derisive voice from one of the youngsters –“Uncleji, please come in the queue. You are a retired person and you can afford to wait in the line for hours, where as we have to rush to work!”

 This, of course, is an isolated instance but the emphasis here is on the absence of a suitable system to avert such hurtful situations, however infrequent. Though a separate facility for elders and physically challenged is provided at a few places, one wonders why the concerned ministry has not thought it fit to mandatorily enforce the same at all establishments meant for public service. 

Having journeyed this far, we have seen the most lovable face of our society as well as a bit of its frown too, which has taught us the art of not getting unduly perturbed if things do not go the way we expect them to in our twilight years as we, nevertheless, continue to be concerned about the safety and well-being of our younger ones which give us a feeling of sublime fulfilment.

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