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Caring for the elderly

There was a time when elders were regarded as living gods. Now the times have changed. The culture of respecting elders has largely diminished, and they are being thought of as a burden or even punishment.

The state of elders is pathetic. Loneliness and neglect affect them badly. They start to think that they are unwanted.

Over-expectations of the elders and the education and affluence of the younger generation pave the way for the generation gap, which slowly creates a situation in which the former are not respected.

But the state of elders in rural areas is slightly different. They are respected better in those parts than in cities. They do not face neglect. Youngsters still respect them in joint families.

In below poverty line families in cities, it is the elders who get severely affected by the poor financial conditions. When the family struggles to make ends meet, the youngsters feel it is burdensome to take care of elders and unnecessary to respect them. Those elders who get a pension are looked after better in the joint family for the sake of this income.

Elders who live with alcoholic youngsters face severe problems. They use elder abuse as an outlet for their struggles in running the family. During this pandemic, many youngsters have lost their jobs. When making ends meet is such a struggle, they are unable to meet the requirements of the elders.

On the contrary, we cannot simply assume that elders are well taken care of in affluent households. Misdeeds such as forging their signatures on cheques and withdrawing money and pressuring them to will properties do happen in many families, though it is the duty of the younger generation to respect elders and take care of their needs.

What is the solution?

First, the government should try as much as possible to get jobs for the youth. Additionally, loans through banks can be organised for enterprising youngsters. Alcoholics should be supported to get de-addiction treatment.

Through psychological intervention, they can be counselled to give up alcoholism and create a conducive relationship between them and the elders.

Elders should write their will when a cordial relationship exists in the family. To avoid misuse of cheques, the bank manager should be informed about the possibility of forgery so that the bank will be cautious and avert any possible misuse of cheques. Apart from willing property in the name of one’s wife, the husband should also leave behind some cash deposit for her for use after his time. This will enable her not to depend on the children in the event of an emergency.

Lack of finances is an important reason for elder abuse. The younger generation feels that it is unnecessary to spend on elders’ healthcare. To address this to some extent, the government can distribute medicines free for chronically sick elders on a monthly basis. The government can give items such as spectacles, hearing aids, dentures and walking stick free.

The United Nations has been observing June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day since 2006. To mark the day, leaders of the nation can give speeches to schoolchildren through radio on “respecting elders”. Thereafter, the children can take a pledge against elder abuse.

A national award should be given to youth who set an example in respecting elders. This will greatly help in creating awareness of the need for respecting elders. Articles on respecting elders can be included in school textbooks.

(The author is a senior

geriatrician in Chennai)

dr_v_s_natarajan@yahoo.com


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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 10:44:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/caring-for-the-elderly/article34857154.ece

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