Vayovrudhas (elders) were a venerated lot in ancient times. Even now, some societies hold elders in high respect. Over the years, with the advent of ‘nuclear' families where both the husband and the wife work, there is no time to look after the parents who are on the wrong side of 60. This is understandable given the fact that such families have no time for each other or their own growing children. It would be unreasonable to expect such ‘working' couples to spare their time or resource for managing elders at home. As such, the trend for such seniors to be packed off to senior citizens' homes has increased though some stigma is still attached to such an arrangement.

Should elders, euphemistically labelled as senior citizens, be given any special privilege in society? In some offices, senior citizens are provided with special counters or they could bypass the lines and go directly to the counters for payment of bills or buy tickets or get some other work done. However, there is an undercurrent of resentment among the general public why older people are given such a facility whereas they have to wait for a long time to get their work done. In fact, such resentment is so obvious that a few senior citizens would wait in the general line rather than use a facility that is provided for them. That is true of reservation of seats in buses. Unless a senior person asks for that reserved seat to be vacated, rarely anyone voluntarily gets up on sighting a senior citizen struggling to stand in a crowded moving bus.

Contrast this with the attitude of the general public in the advanced countries towards senior citizens. If a senior person asks for a concessional ticket for rail, bus, on air travel, entrance to a museum, art gallery, amusement park and so on, he / she gets it instantly without being asked questions. Rarely that person is requested to show his / her photo identity. In our country, anyone claiming a concessional ticket is looked upon with suspicion and it is the rule rather than an exception that the person is asked to produce proof of age.

Take another example. When a senior citizen crosses a road, traffic in the advanced countries either slows down or stops completely. Here in our country, nobody cares. Vehicles whizz past anyone in the mad rush to gain time, notwithstanding the fact that the pedestrian is old and infirm. So one crosses the road at one's own risk.

There has to be a sea change in the attitude of society towards aged persons who need no sympathy but respect and a bit of consideration. After all, they have earned these due to their long innings of useful service to the nation. Where there is respect for elders, that society has a bright future based upon values, which our ancients had preached and practised.

(dbnvimi@gmail.com)

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