The bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be described as priceless. Immaterial of whether a grandparent is geographically distant or close, they play the role of a primary caregiver. However, there are cases where in these senior citizens face several problems, like depression and anxiety, when they do not receive enough attention from the family and are shunned by the society. For some senior citizens, whose children are divorced, interacting with grandchildren has become almost impossible.
According to Anoop Amarnath, director of Geriatric Medicine at Apollo Hospitals, most elderly people suffer from depression because of the lack of interaction with family members.
“Most cases are those of older people suffering from chronic depression. Once we identify this, we either prescribe medical or non-medical treatment. Medical treatment includes prescribing anti-depressant pills and non-medical treatment includes counselling and increased timing in the interaction between family members. Most of the depression cases can be treated through interaction and affection.”
‘CRISP’, an NGO, points out that they have been receiving complaints from senior citizens who are not able to have access to their grandchildren as their children are going through divorce or are divorced. For instance, Rashmi (name changed) has not met her granddaughter for more than three years. After her son’s divorce, the custody of her granddaughter went to her mother and the paternal side of the family could not see their granddaughter.
“We want to play with our grandchildren and look after them. It is like a tonic to us. All we want is to meet our grandchildren every weekend for at least three to four hours,” says Rashmi.
These days, while children decide to stay away from their parents after marriage, when they become parents, they need their parents.
Thus grandparents become the caretaker of the grandchildren more than the parents. Although there are those who feel that it can be tiring at the age of 60 to look after a two-year-old grandchild, some find it a pleasurable activity and one which provides them with certain comfort and affection in the evening of their lives.
Sudha Rajashekar, a grandparent, says, “Grandparents are better than 100 nannies put together. A grandparent and grandchild’s bond is special and unique. It is not only grandparents who are deprived from being with their grandchildren but vice-versa too, which is not a good sign.”
Dr Anoop points out that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men and it is misconceptions that restrict grandchildren and grandparents from interacting. “We have come across cases wherein grandparents suffer from certain diseases like that related to the lung and children are advised not to interact with their grandparents. There is still a stigma attached to certain diseases. When their own family members neglect them, it results in extreme mental trauma,” adds Anoop.
However, technology has helped bridge the gap to some extent. Sumathi (name changed), who is 64 years old, lives with her husband in Basaveshwarnagar. For the past seven years, her son has been living abroad with his wife and seven-year-old daughter. The family flies down to Bengaluru twice a year and it is only during their visit that she meets her son and plays with her granddaughter.
“My son wants us to move with him but we will find it very difficult to adjust there. We are very comfortable. Although we do miss our son and granddaughter very much, we have no choice.” Three years ago, Sumathi’s son taught his parents how to interact on ‘Skype’ which is a boon for them. “My son has installed Skype in the computer and has taught us how to use it. Now, we talk to our son and granddaughter almost everyday for more than an hour and are very happy, even if the communication is virtual.”
Sumathi advises several senior citizens to use technology. “Although we miss our children dearly, we also have to use different alternatives to be connected to them and technology can do that.” Although, the elderly find it difficult to master technology and could be a Herculean task, as Sumathi says, one should give it a shot if it bridges the gap between family members.