Retirement blues

“I wouldn’t have to cook! All our meals would come from a common kitchen.” My 50-year-old friend is filling out forms. “We’re applying towards a retirement home,” she explains. She has neither children nor other family members living nearby. Between her arthritis and her husband’s heart condition she finds it difficult to run an independent household.

This was the second time I was having such a conversation in the last week. Earlier, I called on my mother’s cousin who had just returned from the US. “I had no one to talk to.

My daughter-in-law was completely indifferent.” Unlike her earlier exuberant trip tales, she sounded a tad disillusioned. “I couldn’t even turn on the television as they felt it was interfering with my grandson’s studies.”

Retired people who are living on their own often find it hard to cope. Some have moved to be closer to their children. The trigger could be a hospital stay or a declining health condition, financial necessity or even sheer loneliness. “I feel I’m going through my second childhood,” admits my septuagenarian uncle who visits his children in the US regularly. But my uncle’s solution doesn’t work in most cases. Escalating medical costs  acts as a deterrent, and so does boredom stemming from a lack of social activity.

Working adults who have not grown up in a joint family environment find themselves sandwiched between the needs of their children and their ageing parents. The transition is not always smooth for all generations as urban India is headed towards a nuclear family system. But what happens when there is no support system for these old folks?

Retirement homes are just one answer to this problem. Mushrooming all over India, the idea behind such homes is to take care of their old residents’ needs. It’s time to put on our thinking hats for more solutions. Granted older folks can sometimes be interfering, even obdurate at times, but they are still ours. After all each one of us is going to cross this bridge sooner or later. We’d better have answers before our children are faced with these questions!

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