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Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Senior Citizens....We Can Help

For the past few weeks, every time I have opened the newspaper, the face of one or the other senior citizen has looked at me from the pages, another story of a victim of that sad phase of life that we call ‘old age.’ For the past few weeks, the same story has been playing around everywhere – senior citizen killed. And suddenly today, the Mumbai police seem to have woken up from its stupor and realized that yes, something is terribly wrong in the state, and that now, finally after so many victims being reported, something has to be done to keep them safe.

The police had indeed launched a helpline for the senior citizen. But what a shame when officials themselves admit that the help that was promised through the ‘help’line was not delivered. Reason? Not known….

None of us is away from such a scenario ourselves. If you look around you, chances are you will come across such senior citizens who are alone and left to take care of themselves. And isn’t it a sad life when your entire life you have devoted to your family and kids, but now that your kids are settled and living their own lives, all you are left with is loneliness and the years that are catching up fast. Only a few days back one of my friends was telling me that he is not interested in the concept of marriage, but the only reason he will eventually get married sometime is so that he has kids and partner in his old age who will take care of him…that, according to me, is such a wrong notion.

Case in point:
I know of a senior citizen couple in my building. Both the husband and wife are well above seventies. But looking at their zest for life, you would hardly realize the same. Both are immensely active, and believe in doing something for the society. Their kids are grown up and settled abroad. And now, the two are left to themselves.
Be it a daily chore like going to the market, or more rigorous work like maintenance of the house, driving out to get your work done, or even the regular checkups at the doctor, this couple is very much capable of handling everything themselves. But still, it does not mean that they would not love to have the support they should be having at this age and phase in life.
The auntie I am talking about is fit as a fiddle. Though she may be way ahead of us in age, her spirit and zest for life is much more active than many youngsters of today. Not only is she a champion social activist – she started teaching slum kids on a regular basis under a tree – she is also a yoga teacher and teaches people much younger her age.
The uncle too is very much independent. He likes to do things his own way and is always on his toes, participating in events and doing his work on his own.

So I was of course quite worried when I realized one fine day that uncle was finally really ill. Of course age catches up with us all sometime or the other, and this is only inevitable. But isn’t this the time when someone from the family should at least be present to help during the difficult times?

In today’s world, where time zones and geographies do so much to create distances, maybe it’s the neighbours who can at least take care of each other. Almost all of us have given up living in ‘houses’ now, the apartment concept is all-pervasive, at least in the metros and other bigger towns and cities. So with so many people around, is it okay if such elderly couples are still alone and helpless? If we can spare some time and effort in talking to them and giving them the assurance that no matter what, just a call and we will be there by their side, maybe they would have the trust to let us know next time they really need some help. Of course it takes time to trust someone completely, and they may not like your intervention in the first place. But let them know that you would love to accompany them to the doctor, or maybe run their grocery list when you go grocery shopping for yourself. These are little things that we can all take care of. Small gestures that will hardly cost you a penny or take away much of your time, but these will be those very same gestures that will mean a lot to a person who should ideally be sitting back and enjoying life right now.

And like I always believe in and say:
"Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children" - MJ

Debolina Raja Gupta