The monotony of the monochromatic life aside, these homes provide an atmosphere of camaraderie and care. It is a pleasant experience with contemporaries
This is the story of how my husband and I decided in our elder years to dismantle our home and begin a new phase of life in a senior citizens’ facility. Myriad domestic problems such as finding reliable domestic help, the hassles of paying bills and, above all, considerations of personal safety, led us to this decision.
Of course, many of our relatives and friends tended to look at us with a mixture of pity at our plight, and envy at our courage. My husband was accused of suffering from wanderlust. At the age of 70-plus, we should have known better. We were excited at the prospect of a life without onerous responsibilities that would allow us a chance to pursue our love of reading and writing.
After 30 years in Australia, my husband and I had decided to come home to India to spend the twilight of our lives in the proximity of our relatives and old friends. All through those years abroad — even though it was a happy and contented life there — like many people of our generation, we cherished our dream of coming home. When our sons went off further afield, we decided to settle down in Bangalore. However, the once-delightful little town we had known it as, had disappeared. It had emerged as a frenetic, smog-ridden metropolis, where we felt alien and alone.
So we found ourselves in our present home, a lovely little community in the foothills of the Nilgiris. It is a calm sanctuary with neem trees all around, the blue mountain range providing a colourful backdrop. The motley crew of residents, mostly retired professionals from various fields, who have come together, are bound by a common aim of spending their life in peace and harmony.
The picture that is often painted in popular magazines of orphaned parents spending their life in a fog of happiness and waiting for their children’s next visit is generally not true. Most of us have the realisation that we and the next generation need our space and privacy; the distance fosters affection and respect.
However, I have to say I was slightly miffed at the alacrity with which my young ones accepted our decision.
Many of my fellow-residents with sons and daughters working overseas have found even outstation holidays a little stifling, and were happy to return home here.
So this leads to the question I am often asked: am I completely happy here? In short, yes. I enjoy the easy camaraderie amongst my fellow-residents. It is indeed a pleasant experience to be with people of your own generation. There is no embarrassment about partial deafness, limping legs or bending back. One may happily confess to one’s dentures. Away from the eyes of censuring relatives, we find most of us shedding our inhibitions and participating in activities with gusto. We may burst into an old Tamil or Hindi film song. Indeed, we stage small plays, or a small group may organise a religious activity. My husband, given to more solitary pursuits, looks at the new liberated me with wonder and continues with his task of editing our monthly newsletter.
Are there any challenges living in a retirement village? Yes. At times the monochromatic society may get a little monotonous and I sometimes long for the fun and frolic of young people. When everything is said and done we never quite develop the detachment from our children.
Also, unfortunately, The King Lear syndrome has hit one or two. Like the old king in Shakespeare’s play, parents have given away all they have to their children out of goodness and love. Now when they have to depend on their children for financial assistance, they often lose their sense of self and dignity. Comparisons with others’ children who seem to be more caring may add to the agony.
Old age also brings forth certain behavioural problems which affect all of us. We love to hear our own voice. Life has endowed us with so much wisdom, so advice is often dished out in abundance.
With all the little pinpricks of annoyance, my life has been enriched by my experience here. Our community is slowly evolving into a cohesive unit, and my husband and I am indeed very proud to be a part of it.