The old-age problem is a product of mechanised world and is not confined to our country. It is also the headache to many advanced countries. In fact, it is generally seen that the advanced countries are in the forefront and less advance countries are following them.
Previously a majority of the people used to grow old, around the age of 45-50 years. Now with the improvement in longevity, old-age is said to in after retirement or around the age of sixty. But while modern age, the advent of old-age is considerably delay and the ageing process is also very slow, due industrialization and westernisation, resulting in the breakup of joint-family system and the change in our value systems the elderly persons are confronted with a very large number of serious problems and their lives become really miserable. First of all, old-age manifests itself through external changes in our body systems. The hair turns grey. Physical features, especially facial, are distorted.
The attractive shape and natural glow of the skin vanishes. Wrinkles appear on the face and the forehead, as if to proclaim at the beat of drum that this person has grown old. Physical strength leaves us resulting in general weakness and physical and mental infirmity’. We are no more able to perform our routine bodily functions with the same ease. This has an adverse effect on our working capacity. Retirement from service or active work, reduces our normal income by more than 50 per cent, which leads to daily financial problems. The aged persons now feel the need of physical, moral, financial and emotional support from their children, who, being grossly involved in the pursuit of their own career problems, love affairs and family lives, are unable to pay any attention to the needs of their parents and satisfy their emotional hanger.
A feeling of having become an unwanted member of the family and society, therefore, overtakes the old people. Children, grand children, domestic servants and even pets begin to take them lightly and ignore them in every matter. Their attitude to the aged is marked by contempt, disregard, apathy and outright insults. When such things happen, the old people sink into the deep ocean of depression, so to say. This depression brings with it physical as well as mental strain. The old person also begins to react to such behaviour in a very awkward way and makes a fool of himself by entering into lengthy arguments with younger people, which nobody wants to listen. He may be right, but his age is wrong.
Even his virtues become major vices. Even when he pours his affections on the young ones, is overtones are spurned with contempt, which sometimes ns him furious. An old person becomes a hunch back. He can walk only with the help of a stick.
financial support from his near and dear ones, but they begin 1 to keep him at a distance, and lose all affection for him. He begins to shrink within himself and feels as if he was being crushed under his own weight. His relatives feel that he is mentally deranged and leave him to his own fate. If he falls ill, he may not be attended for a number of days. His sons and daughters-in-law do not pay any attention to him. It is not infrequent that they forget to give him even his two meals. In fact, they do not know whether he is there or not or whether he is alive or dead.
He simply lies down in some obscure corner of the palatial house which he had once built and in which he is now expected not to show himself too often. The income from his house and other property is appropriated by his sons and successors who are now keenly waiting in their wings to seize, whatever else he has, as soon as he closes his eyes. The condition of elderly persons, who have no source of income, is all the more miserable. No one cares for them.
Nobody talks to them. They are generally treated very rudely by their children and grand children. If he is living in a joint family, nobody in the big household assumes the responsibility of looking after his health and well-being. If he has two or more sons, none of them is ready to maintain both the parents. A partition of sorts takes place. While the old father is accepted by one son, the equally old mother takes shelter in the house of some other son or daughter. The old couple cannot even meet and talk to each other. In the modern homes, where every room is fitted with a telephone, the elderly persons are not allowed access to this modern means of communication.
If the elderly couple sometime steals an opportunity to talk to each other or exchange letters, etc., it becomes a big family scandal in which the oldies are said to have been caught red-handed while having a love talk over the wires. All this while all the younger members of the family are busy talking love and making love, whether intra-marital or extra-marital, at all times of day and night.
The condition of those elderly persons, who have lost their spouse, is all the more pathetic. But the worst is the condition of those women who have lost their husbands. The sons and daughters-in-law sometimes take away even Rs. 100 or rs 200 which these poor women get by way of old-age pension , force them to work as domestic help in the neighbourhood or beg their way to starvation. Some writers have likened the natural love and affection between different members of a family to the force, of gravitation which keeps the sun, the stars, the planets, the satellites and even the asteroids and comets in their proper orbits. When one grows old, this natural love and affection of other members of the family for him vanishes and the elderly person becomes like a planet which has lost its gravitational force and has consequently been lost in the boundless and endless empty space. This is but natural.
When people have no hesitation in getting babies in the womb routinely aborted to keep the family size within limits, it not surprising that they become anxious to see the early exit of an old man or woman, which has been designated as Moksha to give it a touch of respectability. Needless to say, euthanasia (mercy killing) is being loudly debated everywhere. The only saving grace is that so far the action line is generally limited to inflicting the mental torture on the elderly men and women. It is only rarely that actual physical violence is used to achieve this end.
The reason for this attitude towards the old persons is the growing materialism in the society. Members of modem families want all their members to earn something and thereby contribute to the running of the family in a comfortable way. Any adult member, whose contribution in cash or kind drops below the optimum point, then that members consider becomes an unwanted species. Blood is no more thicker than water. Thus, the incapability of an elderly person to earn sufficient money has become a great hurdle in the way of his smooth survival in this world. An elderly person without any earning J parity is treated as a burden for the whole family. Therefore, almost everybody in the family becomes hostile to him. Pensioners etc.
, are tolerated only so long as the expenditure of the dernaintenance and upkeep is restricted to a small fraction of the difference between their pension and the family pension which the family is to get in any case even after his death. Children of wealthy people become impatient to acquire the etc., held by the aged person. The old man who appears to be standing between the heirs and the wealth possessed by him, becomes a thorn in their flesh. They cannot kill him straightaway because Ahimsa (non-violence) iscreed. So they resort to non-violent or ahimsa methods of killing and begin to torture the elderly people.
The causes of old-age problems lead us to find some solution. The solution is very simple and within our reach Since the problems of old-age are the product of modern times the solution lies not in building more elderly homes but giving them a little care, love and affection. We must remember that the luxuries enjoyed by us were created by them through their hard work. At the same time we must also remember that we too will be like them one day and if our children treat us in the same fashion, we will not be a happy person then. So a thorough change of attitude is the only solution.
Only then we will be able to eradicate this problem. And nothing short of a spiritual reconstruction can help us in achieving this object.