Ageing gracefully

Seniors are conscious of the importance of their right to a dignified life

July 23, 2023 02:49 am | Updated 02:50 am IST

Many seniors retain their active spirit and vibrant life.

Many seniors retain their active spirit and vibrant life. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

With medical breakthroughs and geriatric care, longevity is increasing. The senior citizens segment of the Indian population is growing exponentially and the predictions are that by 2050, every fifth Indian will be a senior citizen.

I often wonder where exactly lies the line that demarcates the beginning of one’s life as a senior. Quite often, an individual finds himself/herself in the liminal space... straddling youth and old age. Retirement, community-specific ritualistic functions, arrival of grandchildren and certain telltale signs of physical wear and tear, all these indicate the beginning of life’s waning period. Added to these, the subtle, unobtrusive signs of alienation convey, in no uncertain terms, that one is on the threshold of old age. A natural transition process or a conditioned societal response, the reality affects people in different ways.

As generations overlap, there is bound to be conflicts and friction, in all aspects of life. George Orwell nailed it in his words: “Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

Every person is said to have three types of ageing: chronological, biological and psychological. The first one is in autopilot mode; the second one is influenced by lifestyle and other factors; and the third is what decides the quality of one’s life. Mental alertness, attitude, outlook towards life and people, adapting to changes, resilience, overall positive outlook towards life, all these factors define and accentuate the quality of a senior citizen’s life.

A significant percentage of seniors in the age group of 60 to 70 and a little more, with good health and necessary resources, retain their active spirit and vibrant mood, willingly adapting themselves to the challenges of the technology-driven style of life, developing their social skills in tandem with the requirements of the modern lifestyle and staying determined to go as far as they can. They are motivated by the spirit that though one has to accept the pitfalls brought on by the chronological and biological ages, the psychological age is what decides their approach to life. True to their upbeat mood, WhatsApp abounds with tips and ideas and suggestions for seniors to lead a purposeful life, as long as things are under their control.

Recently I happened to visit a newly built senior living community. It was a paid facility, but still a majority of the residents looked happy, confident, empowered and active, with no obvious signs of self-pity or remorse. Finance being not a problem, they were in no way ready to give up the quality of life they had woven around themselves. Most of them were in the age belt of 60 to 70-plus and were taking great interest in upgrading their apartments to their taste and comfort.

A retired teacher was happy about her choice: “My son is globetrotting. My husband and I cannot keep pace with him. We would definitely love to be with our children. If it happens that way, it is good. If it needs to be different, it has to be good too. No love is lost among us.”

A gentleman was practical: “In olden days, lifestyles of people had a commonality about them; everyone sharing the available space, the resources, the food and everything else. Personal space, privacy and freedom were not invaded, but were not invented then. As people got old, they voluntarily withdrew from the mainstream and they took to religious and spiritual practices ... in tune with the system of Vanaprastha.”

The shift in awareness among the seniors is palpable. They are conscious of the importance of their right to a dignified life in their evening of life, away from the social compulsions of competing with the expectations and demands of the younger world.

Financial constraints, dependence, early onset of physical ailments, and other factors, play a great role in people opting to choose to live differently. The blessed ones can choose a way to live life that is compatible with the changing trends of the world.

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