Indeed the loneliness and neglect associated with the old age is a rather recent phenomenon. It is the outcome of break up of the tradition of joint family system. Growing urbanisation and fast moving modern life have contributed to the problem. Furthermore, the erosion of moral values has also aggravated the situation. Earlier, when life was simpler and values counted for more, those who reached a ripe old age held an enviable place in society where they could really release and enjoy the twilight years of life.
They commanded great respect, regard, love and attention and were taken as source of inspiration, guidance and experience for the younger generation. These words of Elbert Hubbard are true to the situation, “where parents do too much for their children, the children will do not much for themselves.”
Every phase of life has its own problems which require prudence, wisdom, courage and strength to attend to. In childhood and youth one has parents and other close elderly kith and kin to help, cooperate and guide. Besides, one himself is full of energy, strength, stamina and courage. But the situation takes a reverse turn in the old age. For his every work he needs someone to help. He becomes dependent to others largely due to his physical infirmity. He is, in fact, filled with a feeling of emotional insecurity. He wants someone to take care of his needs and share his feelings. But in this materialist society, everybody is short of time. Nobody has enough time for him. Even his own children, to whom he dedicates his life and his earnings, do not find time for him.
The problem gets accentuated especially as the world ceases to have any resemblance to what the elderly were once accustomed to and changes at a bewildering pace with every passing moment.
Debilitating body and failing health, make things worst. Having rendered service for a lifetime, the body parts appear to have become tired and weak. He becomes highly vulnerable to ailments-minor or major. Diseases both minor and major always follow them and their waking hours are preoccupied with symptoms and pills, diets and therapies. Regular medical aid and assistance becomes routine at this stage of life.
Besides, social security and emotional support are terribly needed. A feeling of loneliness adversely affects their mental health which shows through some physical problems. In recent times, insecurity of the old, particularly in metropolitan cities, has emerged as a matter of grave concern. Usually, they are alone with servants to take care of them. After some time, the servants become familiar with everything in the household, they rob them of all their belongings, often become cruel enough to kill them and ran away. The news of such incidents are frequent in national dailies.
The problem of loneliness and isolation is the gift of modern society. The society forces an old person to live like an island. Often he faces the loss of spouse and old friends. In fact, during the old age one is faced with multi-dimensional problems. One of the major problems is the financial constraint which is really more difficult in case of those old persons who are not entitled to any social security and have no source of income, completely depending on their spouse or children. People of this consumer culture do not have sufficient money to provide financial support to their parents; neither do they take it as their moral responsibility. This situation is really unfortunate and needs to be addressed properly.
Added to this is the depressing anxiety of not knowing just how far ahead one must plan or for how long one is forced to dependent financially on his children to meet his requirements. This brings more despondency to him. This plays havoc with the lives of the elderly. The picture is really grim in the twilight years of the life which ought to have been the best years of a person’s life, when man is free from every kind of responsibilities.
In fact, it is an appropriate time for him to enjoy life without care and concern. He finally has time to live-“sit in shade/reliving the good old times/letting bad memories fade.” Keeping in mind these words of Henry Ward Beecher, “There is no friendship, no love, like that of the parent for the child,” we should be sincere and caring enough to take care of them when they most need it, but not pamper them.