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Updated: July 30, 2012 03:48 IST

The Amir Khan column: Rewire, don’t just retire

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Aamir Khan.
Aamir Khan.

The Aamir Khan Column: As a society we have created infrastructure and support systems to help us look after our children. No such system exists for the elderly.

I think India must be one of the few places where, culturally and traditionally, there is so much respect for elders. It is probably the only country where we touch the feet of our elders as a mark of respect. Yet at a practical level and in how our infrastructure is geared, we are far behind many other countries and societies in looking after the elderly. Among the many changes in India is the gradual shift from the joint family to the nuclear family, and it is transforming our relationship with the elders in our families. Today a person working and living in a large city has many demands on him. She has very little time for herself and her own children and spouse. What happens to our elders in this changing scenario? We need to plan better for our elders, and in fact, for ourselves because sooner or later all of us (no matter how much we resist it) will eventually get there.

The average lifespan in 1947 was 31 years. So the number of people living beyond the age of retirement, that is, 60 years, would not have been very high. Also, at that time, the joint family could be counted on for its support system. Today the average life span is around 65 years, and the number of people living beyond 60 years is dramatically higher. It is now fairly common to see people living up to the age of 75 or 80 years. That is 20 years of life after retirement. Add to this the remaining living years of your spouse. So, whatever I have earned and saved over 40 years has to last me and my spouse another 20 years. And remember these last two decades of our lives will be the time when our expenditure on health would be highest. Of course, I’m not even getting into inflation. So can my spouse and I live comfortably and independently for 20 to 25 years without earning? Unlikely, for most of us. So who is going to look after us? Our children? But they might have their own problems. So perhaps one of the things that each of us really need to look at, after retiring at the age of 60 from a government or a corporate job, is a way to continue to earn a living and remain productive for as long as possible.

No infrastructure

As a society we have created infrastructure and support systems to help us to look after our children. So, we have for our children 10 years of school i.e., from the age of six to 16. Before that, we have kindergarten, before kindergarten we have nursery, before nursery we have play schools and crèches that help to look after our children. No such support system exists in our society for the elderly. We need to have more professional organisations that bring the elderly together so that they can be productive in how they spend their time, and have a good time even after they are past retirement age. ‘Nana-Nani’ or ‘Dada-Dadi’ parks are examples. Recreation centres or parks for senior citizens are being run by local self-government bodies, NGOs, senior citizen groups and local area bodies in different parts of the country. They get grants from the government, the area municipality and sometimes, from donors or sponsors. Delhi has been particularly active in this regard — it has over 75 such recreation centres and the Delhi government offers some financial aid and assistance for starting and the upkeep of such endeavours.

As pointed out by Mr. Himanshu Rath on our show, a huge percentage of our voting population is above the age of 60 and that number is growing. And most of our politicians are also above the age of 60. Despite this, there are very few facilities or policies designed for the elderly by the Centre or various State governments. The Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) was launched by the Ministry of Rural Development. All persons of 65 years and above who are below the poverty line, according to the criteria prescribed by the Government of India, are eligible for the scheme. The pension amount is Rs.200 per month per person. Most States give between Rs.200 and Rs.500 to senior citizens below the poverty line. Some State governments have been more generous. Tamil Nadu gives Rs.1,000, 20 kg of free rice to cardholders and 35 kg to families classified as the “poorest of the poor.” Goa gives all senior citizens a pension of Rs.2,000 per month, not just those below the poverty line.

In essence we need to remember that just touching the feet of our elders is not enough. It should not become a meaningless gesture which we go through because of tradition, rather it should be a gesture born out of genuine affection, love and respect. And what we should never forget is that where our elders are today we will be tomorrow.

Jai Hind. Satyamev Jayate.

(Aamir Khan is an actor. His column will be published in The Hindu every Monday.)

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Old is Gold holds good true at all instances. We hope this precious topic would become an eyeopener to central and state bodies.Undoutadly Elderly people would be most respected in India as rightly pointed out above, as we take their blessings with touching of their feet.Its disheartening that looking after of eldery people has become really lackadaisical with the growing of innumerable oldage homes.Central,State bodies and individual has to be responsible for supporting elderly people.

from:  Rajesh Azmeera
Posted on: Jul 18, 2012 at 21:53 IST

Child Parent relationship should not be transaction based. While i agree that children should do all possible to make their parents happy in their old age it also the responsibility of the parents to plan their finances properly so that they live a dignified retired life. This means plan for any inheritences only after planning your funds to support yourself.

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Jul 18, 2012 at 13:11 IST

Working for as long as possible cannot be a solution to elder citizens who have already paid their dues. Most of these elder citizens would have been working from the age of 21 or younger from the 60s/70s. To ask them to coninually provide for themselves is unreasonable. Provide optins for them to work for hom or work part time or suggest alternatives. Not everyone can work regular jobs after 64. Lots of jobs these days are demanding. I would ask Aamir and others to suggest alternate occupation options for elder citizens.

Also not enough emphasis has been given to savings aspects. They need to save a lot, especially for medical emergencies. Insurance companies do not want to take care of elder citizens. The premiuns are either high or they flat out reject elder citizens with prior illnesses. what are the options here?

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Jul 18, 2012 at 12:51 IST

My colleague , a dedicated and hardworking retired Govt. official, who was against going for a new assignment after retirement, was really impressed by this article and now he is inclined to look for a new job. Congrats to Mr. Amir, as his article has changed the mind set of my friend, though many of us made attempts, but in vain. On his recommendation only, I have gone this column and really it is impressive and fantastic. Some of the comments above requested for Govt. assistance in reduced travel charge, etc. you must understand that such things will drive them into laziness and dependence. Instead, it should think of giving respectful employment opportunities, in the same department or private companies or elsewhere even with lesser emoluments. The feeling of under employment itself will erase the dejection in their life. There is a welcome trend in KFC chicken malls by employing the physically challenged and they are proud of it. Some can take pride by employing the old.

from:  Balusamy.C
Posted on: Jul 18, 2012 at 12:43 IST

This is an normative idea potrayed by Mr. Aamir Khan it is same as removing corruption from the country because when the whole political system lacks effectiveness and accountibility . There are many policies that are approved by the center but as usual they never reach the old population of India we need to do an initiative because the govt of india will never do anything help out with various schemes or plans for the elderly people of our country so as to help them

from:  Tushar Raj Verma
Posted on: Jul 18, 2012 at 11:42 IST

The program on caring for elders was thought proving , besides touching the heart strings.Congratulations Amir.
Human behavior goes round in circles , "As we sow , so we reap".
Empathy and caring has to be demonstrated in the homes. Alas, the disparities of income and expenditure needs, are different among the siblings and for the parents, not to speak of educational opportunity/ affordability. Above all, one should remember that it is the responsibility of the earlier generation "to enable" the Next Gen. to generate a larger income and thereby ensure progress and a feeling of contentment. Failure to do so, for Gen Next,is the prime and singular cause of resentment, and disrespect.
Societal arrangements to provide infrastructure, care, and emotional support are all the requirements of the present as India has a growing population of senior/ very senior citizens who need to retain positivity and remain contributing to the future generations from the wisdom gleaned from experience.

from:  L.K.Subramaniam
Posted on: Jul 18, 2012 at 10:13 IST

Mr. Aamir Khan raised an important topic. But it needs a deeper analysis. Traditionally, sons had taken care of parents and this practice still exists among rural communities. Laborers really never retire; they work until they drop. Government pensions could be one solution but the nation has to evolve a solution for the long term. Professionals may retire from their regular jobs at some age much greater than the current 55 or 58 or 60 and then take up voluntary activities that benefit the society with their intellectual and skill based capabilities. The society should think up opportunities such that laborers retire from their hard work and train into less onerous jobs that draw upon their wisdom. All people should contribute to retirement schemes so that the dependence on government is minimized.

from:  Som Karamchetty
Posted on: Jul 17, 2012 at 21:54 IST

In our highly immoral and corrupted society it's not surprising that many of the elderly are neglected by their own children. But moreover in our patriarchal culture if you don't have a male child than you won't go and stay with the daughter. even their in law family would not welcome it.It's the right time that the govt. should make sure that all the indian citizens get a decent pension either through their employment or govt. funded. For those who can't look after themselves it is the responsibility of the govt. not to neglect them. I hope that the good snse will prevail in our society and the future will be better for elderly.

from:  R.Manivarmane
Posted on: Jul 17, 2012 at 21:00 IST

This is one of the many ills of Indian society. The main requirement is to have a proper vocation useful to others besides food, shelter and medicare. Under PPP a few crore single bed room apartments can be built in rural India near schools, Universities, Hospitals, Parks & Temples where their service/interaction is quite useful to others.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: Jul 17, 2012 at 08:38 IST

Very thought provoking .....Thank you Aamir

from:  Arunava
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 21:24 IST

I wonder how can anyone be so negligent to forget their own parents who brought him/her up. It's very shameful for the person who fails to take care of parents in their old age. One should always think and imagine how he/ she would feel if their children give the same treatment to them!
Government should surely increase the number of houses for old people (Rehab centers). Old people coming together and sharing their life with each other can also make better solution. It is highly required that government should give pension to old citizens living without support of their children especially if they ain't receiving anything from their former workplace.
Above all, every youth of the nation, for that sake, every citizen should take pledge that he/ she will never forget the deeds their parents done for them and will take care of them throughout the life and make their second innings of life the most joyful!! Change will come in society only when we remember our culture and teachings.

from:  vivek patil
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 20:28 IST

While there is no gainsaying the need to provide infrastructural facilities for the old to lead as much peaceful and not unhappy retired life as possible, it is more a question of how we cherish certain age old values of life which looked upon the old and elderly not as a burdensome baggage but as people who were singularly responsible for what we are today.This realization should be total and genuine and translate into our day today attitude towards the old.They should also reciprocate and defer to the youngsters mainly to the lady who is donning the unenviable role of home maker whose responsibilities of running the family had increased manifold as compared with olden days when their role was just subservience.Ultimately it all boils down to peace in the family whether we make infrastructural provisions for the old or display the right attitude towards them and the latter reciprocating.

from:  G.Jagannathan
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 17:31 IST

Parents can raise their all children but all children can't take care of their parents.We should not forget that one day we have to step into their shoes then only we will realise what we did in the past.

from:  Monika Gupta
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 16:09 IST

Awsum episode !
Prepare,plan and act ! throughout your life is the lesson !
People shud follow all the time.

from:  varanasi anup
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 15:35 IST

indeed an important issue of our social life.Central and state govt as well as big corporations should work together to provide a dignity full life to our elders.
1)IGNOAPS scheme should be continued for the BPL people with minimum 500 Rs monthly support.
2)Local govt should make more old age home with proper facility, specially for those old ladies who begs on the road.
3)All govt hospital should have counsellor for old people to properly attend their issue.
4)There should be strong police act to stop violence on old people.
5)NGO's and Local govt should take more active participation to help dejected old peoples to bring them to old age home and also to provide them justice.
6)As Aamir kahn correctly pointed out that largest electorates and elected are senior citizen, issues of the old people should be high priority election manifesto for the parties .
7)As we have national commission for SC/ST and Women, we should have similar commission for old people to attend their issue.

from:  Dipankar
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 13:52 IST

"Re-Tyre not Retire" was Sri Sathya Sai's saying. It is a great effort by Aamir and the episode was very inspiring. Am waiting every weekend eagerly.

from:  Bala Pavan Kumar
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 12:56 IST

It is the serious issue to be addressed by every one of us. In a place
where elders own their respect, it is not nice to hear the plight of
old age. This depicts the deteriorating relationships in India. Do the
respect for elders come over night or it should be learnt in curriculum..? It should be practiced. The very idea of establishing the
old age homes may make the problem quite complicated. In the race of
raising the funds for spending in the old age may lead to imbalance in
the life. One good example is the relationship between the parent and
child may be worsen. Also, the practice of sending to play school, day
care and kindergarten doesn`t make them the feel of love and
attachment. The child has to feel the paternal love. It is nice to have
the grant from the Govt. to the old, but this alone cannot address the
problem and may burden the Govt. in the future.
Let us refresh the values and relations.

from:  MadanMohan Reddy
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 12:30 IST

Well Mr. Amir khan has done tremendous job satyamev jayte and exploring
the problems in our society. Infrastructure for elder people is much
more needed than any other. I deeply sad to even think that how a son
can throw his parents out of home? The boy who, raised by the same
people in difficult conditions when he is able to earn something he
through them from the same place or not caring them. They make him employable, they make him social and now he don't need them. What we
are doing? we know that one day we also on same place as they are our
children also looking the same thing they will do the same thing with
us. we are loosing our cultural our society. Mr. Amir khan rightly said
if we are touching our elder feet then we have to do it from our heart
not from just to see others. We have to make more infrastructural
facilities for elders where, they can enjoy the day and can use their
expertise in the field.

from:  Harmendra Singh
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 12:28 IST

My sincere thanks to Amir for taking up an issue which is most prevalent in the Indian Families these days.But at the same time I feel that it is one sided article and had a tilt towards elders. the views of the youth for ignoring their elders should also been taken in to it.It is also these same elders have neglected their own elders when they had the power and intoxicated with the power they have neglected their elders and in some cases their own children.This is a cycle. History repeats itself.Atleast my sympathies are not with them.

from:  Vipin Bhatnagar
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 12:27 IST

very true, people really don't know what they have to with their old
mother and father. the way we are handling is very similar to the way
we are handling the old unwanted material in home, probably we would
handle the old material more carefully than our old parents or grand
parents. now another issue with elderly is, as old age is a role less
role, they do have nothing to do in their days.. simply sitting makes
them feel that' ha, we are useless now'.. this thought itself will
hamper their physical and psychological life.. what Mr. Aamir Khan is
talking about in this article about the infrastructure for elderly is
a very useful idea to reduce the existing bitter feeling towards

from:  Noorjahan
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 11:45 IST

Nice piece of thought by Aamir Khan. the valuable gift given by god i.e. or elders. Especially if we talked about Indian context, the degree of respect what an elder is provided the same degree of care is absent. Whatever might be the reasons behind it, we should be careful about and fore-sighting our future too. Grand Parents, Parent and elders take a lot of pain to flourish their children and make them able to stand on their feet. They once have to long to talk to their children and to express their desire. we need also to understand the reasons behind it and find the solution of this dehumanize act of younger. Because only infrastructure development can not help solve the grave problem. It also needs an awareness among the younger generation.

from:  Om Kumar
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 11:32 IST

The initiative taken up by Mr. Aamir Khan for the cause of the elderly is laudable. If large number of youngsters join hands with him or they too promote this cause independently, it would go a long way in providing some relief to our elderly people.

from:  KV Suryanarayanan
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 11:26 IST

The plight of elderly citizens has been rightly highlighted in the
recent episode of satyamev jayate. The problem is more acute in urban
middle class families which face pressure of making ends meet in this
tough world where the time spent with the family is also getting
lesser and lesser. Moreover the prime reason remains the disputes over
property and money. Proper financial planning, community centres for
the elderly and governmental support would be right steps towards
giving them a healthy and peaceful time in their final stages of life.
At the same time, children must never forget the sacrifices which
parents make during their lifetime for making their futures bright.
Remember, todays children will be tomorrows elders.

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 10:51 IST

I do agree with Aamir that infrastructure has to be provided for the elderly citizens, but before that the inner conscious has to be awakened in our present generations. Most of the problems can be resolved related to these elderly citizens by creating the responsibilities in their own families. As stated when a parents are taking care of their kids for 16 years, so do the society, why shouldn't their children take care of their parents when they grow old. If this social responsibility is raised among everyone, all infrastructure will follow in place, and we can witness even the elderly living a happy and healthy life.... Jai Hind.

from:  Shaffiullah
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 10:42 IST

this article about senior citizens is very heart touching. It is very good and well explained article. But in India we take of our parents more than in any other country but some families are there who are not taking care and children are feeling that looking after parents is a burden on them. They have to look after their own families and they have pay for their children studies and make them well settled in the society but they have to remember that their parents also thought about them like that only and worked very hard to bring to this position and one day will come when their own children also think them as a burden.

from:  anuradhadasari
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 10:25 IST

Very true.aging is inevitable. Within the family-circuit,embracing the process of aging with wisdom and youthful spirit will sure open up many avenues of productivity. The crux here lies in fighting the resistance of "outdated" views, which bind the aged to "confined" roles. The change,here,should not only initiate from the youngsters who should 'walk the talk' about respecting and 'spacing' out for elders but also from the elderly, who should be accomodating to the changing lifestyle, the priority-shifts and the "individualistic" family arising out of the whole set-up. Children(infants)eventually open up to teh the external support systems,given to them,when both parents go for work.Despite the odds, this has been made possible because a child's mind can "flex-up" to the changing enviroment. Similarly, the aged should open up to having a support systems outside the family, so that they are cared for and there is a circle of love, which doesnt pinch or impinge on anyone's well-being!

from:  Uma
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 10:16 IST

Like it or not “touching the feet of our elders… has become a
meaningless gesture which we go through because of tradition” and
definitely not “ born out of genuine affection, love and respect”
like so many other meaningless aspect of our “tradition bound
society”. It is quite often true that while they are alive helpless
aged parents will have to grin and bear insults and indignity of
their children who will dutifully go through the motions of ceremony
complying with the “traditions” after the parents are dead.
Hypocrisy thy name is Indian tradition bound society!

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 09:47 IST

Modern day's requirement are so complex that it has resulted in formation of nuclear families of which might be be one of the reason why a sense of apathy is being shown towards elders.They are being treated as unproductive asset.It has a lot to do with our moral values.Grow up guys this is india unlike america we don't take appointment to meet our parents

from:  swagat
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 08:34 IST

Aamir has raised a very relevant issue, yet again.

Given the state of affairs, I would not like to count on the State
(pun intended) to provide meaningful support to the elders financially
on a continued basis. But given the burgeoning old-age population, it
would make eminent sense for the Government to promote private
initiatives that are aimed at providing care for the aged. Even at
the risk of a few abusing the system, the Government can absorb the
tax loss by charging zero income tax for Senior citizens and can
highly subsidize travel in buses and trains.

The onus is very clearly on the current and the would-be ageing
generations to make provisions for easy living in their post-
retirement era. Instead of spending their hard-earned income on
lavish or doom-dhaam weddings of their children, they need to invest
in monthly-income schemes and funds judiciously and also ensure that
their children inherit the money only after both pass away through

from:  Badri
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 05:43 IST

Right topic and the right time for open discussions. It's time that support systems are activated to help senior citizens to lead the rest of their lives healthily and stress-free. Particularly transportation should be hassle free. However much could be done by the government and the civil society, it is still incumbent on the youngsters to care for their elders by extending their love and affection.

from:  D. Chandramouli
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 05:07 IST

It is all good stuff. In his last column on the scrouge of untouchability in India, Aamir Khan wrote, " Well having reacted to it now, I think it is high time I do something about it". Those of us interested in eradicating this evil from Indian life, would really appreciate what Aamir Khan is going to do to follow up on his seeming resolve. I do hope that he would share publicly the actions he is taking in this regard so that we may be able to join in those efforts.

from:  virendra gupta
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 03:52 IST

There needs to be a mindset change. I lived in India and Canada and the
"old" people are much different in both countries. Old people in India
by the time they hit 50 they say "oh im geting so old", they retire from
life and they think it is all over now and resigned to old age. In
Canada they retired at 65, they exercise, walk everyday, are fit and
active by the age of 70. They even go back to university at age 60, they
take up new hobbies like sports and photography.

from:  Abner
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 03:42 IST

We need to take a much broader view of infrastructure. For example, on a recent visit to
Chennai I read that a women's community network hires wheelchair for use by elderly
women. While laudable, you have to ask where can they use them other than inside their
At a time when across the board, the rich and well educated included, take up valuable street
space in the pretext of greening, ther is no pedestrian pathways for walking and not just
prams and wheelchairs.
It is high time encroachments are stopped, street space rightfully restored to the public and
everyone takes and puts into place requisite infrastructure for all our people.

from:  Cheenu Srinivasan
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 03:06 IST
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