Old age should not be spent in old age homes
Many individuals have been to old age homes, as a volunteer or during some social project drive, to help the staff and ‘inmates’ as the residents are called. They then leave the old age home after a day or so spent with old men and women, usually firmly pledging never to leave their relatives to languish in such a place. They feel sad at what they see – the elderly spending the rest of their lives, lonely and unhappy. Why then, are there so many of the elderly, still stuck in such homes – where they live their life in misery, longing to go back to the past where they had the company of their families? Parents are a guiding light in our lives. They are the reason we exist and it is our responsibility as children to take care of them when they become dependent on us. This is an emphatic appeal to all the adults out there with elderly parents – no matter how old and frail they are, no one can take care of them better than their children and hence they should go an extra mile to not send their parents to old age home and try and let them live in the comfort of their home. Many people have seemingly logical reason for leaving their old mothers, fathers and relatives in an old age home. They say that they lead busy lives, their careers expect them to travel and they come back very late at night. They don’t have time to take care of an old person’s needs and the person will be better off somewhere where help will be constantly available. However, they don’t realise that their old parents will be more than happy to wait for them to come back, or live alone in their absence. The argument that there is no one to take care of them is not enough to place the elderly in an old age home, especially in cases when elderly people do not need constant care. If you visit old age homes chances are that many of the residents will tell you about how they don’t like their lives there and want to go back. They will talk about their lives as youngsters and tell you about their children and their work. Ask them if their children come to visit and they will tell you stories of how busy they are and how much work they have. Ask them if they stay far away or in another city, chances are they don’t. Not only do some people put their parents in an old age home, they don’t bother to visit them regularly citing work and social pressure. They easily forget that their parents juggled careers and different kinds of pressures to bring them up and make them what they are today. If you think that the elderly live lives of idle relaxation and spend their time playing cards and board games with each other that most advertisements of such homes would have you believe, you are wrong. This idyllic picture is far from reality. Many old age homes receive funding and there are many people who donate money and material goods and medicine but this does not make up for the loneliness the old people feel. They try to fill the void left by their children by talking to the visitors who come to these homes. Talk to anyone who lives there and see how they will talk ceaselessly about themselves, their hopes, fears and desires. Elderly people have rights too. They have the right to a home that they call their own and their own independence. People in old age homes often feel caged in and abandoned and live lives of boredom with nothing to look forward to. Everyone should realize that old age is a difficult time – ailments, medication and restricted mobility aside, many suffer from depression and bitterness at personal failures. No matter what, they will feel better off in their own space. Many opine that a practical way of looking at old age homes is that the elderly can avoid abuse at the hands of their children once they are too old to contribute to the income of the family and they can live their lives peacefully without any worries; food and medication will at least be at hand when they need it. While this logic cannot be refuted it unfortunately reveals a huge flaw in society today. Adults need to care and be compassionate. If an elderly parent cannot contribute in anyway the reaction should not be emotional or physical abuse. They have reached the end of their lives - they deserve comfort and care, not demands for financial contribution. Old people are similar to infants and they need to cared for with lot of love and patience. There might be some very genuine cases when it is better for the old parents to stay in a good old age home. For instance if the children are staying in a different country or city and if the parents do not want to spend the last years of their life in an alien environment then old age homes might be a good option with occasional travel to spend some time with their children. If for some reason, the old parents are not treated with respect and care at home, then rather than suffering a life of humiliation, it is better to move into an old age home where at least their self respect will be intact and they will get some company in the form of other old people. While this topic is controversial and debatable, with different ways of reasoning, the bottom line remains that the elderly should be allowed to enjoy their twilight years in comfort, surrounded by their own people, enjoying their independence. Those with elderly parents have a duty towards them and not upholding this duty should be regarded as a failure.