evening of life

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Jul 2018 12:26:11

EVENING is not just a time of the day; it is also a time of reflection, of meditation, of leaning back, of looking back on the journey of the day, as well as a time still to look forward to a good night’s rest for the day next! But a study by New Delhi’s Agewell Foundation about the elderly population of India has something disconcerting to offer -- that at least 25% of elderly population of India lives a lonely and also lonesome life. So agonising that lonesomeness is that all the attributes of a well-earned relaxation in the evening of life become useless and a quarter of India’s elderly population is damned to spend life all by itself with nothing to claim as company. What kind of life must that be! -- one may wonder. Naturally, and obviously, this is one of the most ticklish of social issues that the larger Indian society faces. And therefore, naturally and obviously, we must work in a focused manner to find an effective solution to the challenge of giving our elderly people, our living gods, a life with a sense of fulfillment and achievement. 

The news about the Agewell Foundation study does not talk of its sample size in clear terms. Yet, whatever the sample size, it does make a clear distinction between the elderly population in cities and the villages. And it infers that the condition of the elderly population in cities is worse than that of their counterparts in villages. The reasons are not far to seek, in the sense those have been discussed and deliberated upon and analysed in ample measure on countless occasions. Yet, the larger Indian society has not been able to find an effective method of tackling the challenge. One of the easiest of excuses being dished out all the time is the change in general lifestyle driven by economic considerations. And once that excuse is thrown up, discussion ceases to carry on.

But this is nothing but cheap escapism as the larger Indian society has not tried sincerely enough to find a considered response to the issue of the elderly population. That is the reason why our senior citizens continue to languish as they grow older in age when their reflexes are on the decline and their emotions are on an edgy high. And when the larger society prefers to relegate a good number of its elderly people to a life of overall but unstated rejection, then it is time to remind the society that the issue has a deep-seated cultural malaise at the base.

It is this cultural malaise that we have to find response to. For, when an ever-increasing number of younger people is beginning to lose interest in the elderly in the family and the society, if a bigger percentage of young people is finding the elderly a millstone around the neck, then there is something very serious, very sick, very cancerous in the society. And when such a thing keeps happening to an increasing extent in any society, it is time to conclude that the society is falling prey to a senseless consumerism where everyone knows the price of everything but value of nothing. When such a tendency overtakes a society, then its members stop understanding the distinction so finely made by (the late) Abraham Lincoln the great. In a letter to his son’s headmaster, he had said, in effect, ‘... (teach him if you can) that he -- the son -- must sell his brain and brawn to the highest bidder, but never to put a price-tag on heart and soul’.

Unfortunately, the younger generations in the larger Indian society have stopped making this fine distinction made by none other than Abraham Lincoln. They -- the younger generations -- are learning to put a price-tag even on matters of heart and soul. The problem of lonely and lonesome elderly has stemmed from this cultural rot, whose answer it is our duty to find now. We have got to have it ingrained in our head and heart that the society that ignores its elderly can never, never, never progress.