It was my first time in a senior citizen home and it was indeed a revelation. I was invited to conduct a talk on healthy living and it gave me a new insight on how traditions and trends are changing fast. There were 64 couples and six individuals living in this Senior citizen home. Each of them had a story to tell. The Parents were forced to stay in a new environment either because of lack of support or because their children were away in a different country. Many had heart-rending stories of neglect. Only four of them were there since they opted for it.
Times are changing and so are the needs and demands. Most families are nuclear and are more focused on work and financial returns. Among the youth of today, many of them don’t have time owing to professional commitments. The parents on the other hand still seek to find the emotional bond and feel it is the duty of the children to take care of the parents.
Old age is replete with not just rich experiences but brings with it a host of health & other problems. Long-term care supporting the medical as well as the non-medical needs of senior citizens and people with disabilities has become a necessity.
‘Assisted living’ as a concept emerged in the west over 2 decades ago to offer senior citizens with a sense of independence while providing them assistance with their daily chores. The facility of assisted living or retirement homes offers elders-friendly, round the clock availability of housekeeping, food, healthcare and other amenities as required. This facility provides an active and social lifestyle which keeps their mind free of negative thoughts and their bodies healthy. This facility is available for the elderly who cannot or choose not to live independently.
The concept which was unheard of in India some years ago is slowly becoming a reality. With the growing economies and the inviting careers across borders, professionals have started flocking to other countries. The ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ which was common in the west for aged parents is gradually getting familiar with Indian parents too. A study by ‘The Hindu’ indicates senior citizens are expected to constitute around 20% of India’s population by 2020, which is only going to increase by 2030.
Need for Assisted Living
In the Indian social construct, it is assumed that the children take care of their elders. However, these days, parents are more open-minded, are supportive of their children’s growing careers and support them in the path they choose. Due to this reason, they also understand that their children may not be around them all the time that they need. This arises the need for assisted living residences as many elders seek facilities that offer 24/7 care for all their needs.
There is also a second set of senior citizens who are independent, financially stable, and want to spend the 'evening of life' comfortably without depending on their children. Assisted living ensures they are independent yet have enough help to stay peaceful.
Assisted Living is not a Taboo
We are all guilty of judging other people of their actions before evaluating their circumstances. There is a social stigma attached to parents living separately or more so with assisted living due to the assumption that it renders the children incapable or indicates a state of destitution.
But whatever could be the assumption, it is a constitutional right for every individual to choose to lead a life of dignity. Living independently or with assisted living or comfortably settling down in a ‘retirement home’ is a choice one consciously makes to live with peace of mind.
We Are All in This Together
Several senior living or assisted living homes have been functional in India & offer quality care and services. Cities including Chennai, Pune, Bangalore, Jaipur, Bhopal, Palghat, Coimbatore, Kumbakonam, Vadodara, Amritsar, Chandigarh, NCR region etc., have had several projects and the entry of corporate and private players into this segment has boosted senior care to a great extent.
To quote a small example, ‘Antara Senior Living’, a senior living gated community in Dehradun, India was built with the objective of providing ‘lifestyle with lifecare’ to senior citizens. The stakeholders of the project feel that “Old age is a time for reflection & renewal, a time to reconnect with oneself and lead a secure & peaceful life.”
Supporting the elders and allowing them to live a life of their choice is prima facie the responsibility of all youngsters.
Blog written by President Dr Naresh Shetty