Reverence for one’s parents is deeply embedded in Indian families. Children deem it their moral duty to look after their aged parents and elders. In the last few decades, our society has undergone massive transformation in terms of family structure. As a consequence of the social transformation and evolving lifestyles, many of the older parents are landing in old age homes. The mushrooming of nuclear families especially in urban India, has led to steadily increasing number of old age homes.
“The increase in old age homes in the metropolitan cities is not a good development. Over three decades ago, the thought of older parents being sent to the old age homes was not easily accepted in our country due to traditional mind-set and cultural ethos,” says Bangalore-based Kishore Joseph, trustee, Omasharm Trust Old Age Care which presently serves a total of 65 resident elders.
The most obvious reason for this trend is the migration of children from their hometowns to metropolitan cities in search of better education, jobs, and improved lifestyles. While the younger generation has no difficulty in moving out of their parental homes and adapting to new lifestyles, the elderly population choose to remain back due to the attached sentiments of the place.
Also, many children cannot take care of their aged parents with chronic health issues. Some elders find it difficult to cope with their daughter-in-laws and grandchildren, due to difference in values and mindset. “Most of the aged parents who are brought in to the homes are over 65 years old and are bedridden. We take care of these elderly as our own parents. The children do visit them atleast once a month or for the birthdays and anniversaries,” affirms Joseph.
“In the initial stages, any elderly parent who comes to the old age home is very reluctant to live here. Further, it is not easy for them to get adjusted to a different ambience at their age. Eventually, they adjust to the new environment and also develop lasting bonds with other residents. They slowly tend to accept the old age homes as their own home,” says Chennai-based Kunjamma Thomas, trustee of Marias old age home that caters to over 60 resident elders.
Further, though old age homes are mushrooming in the cities, not all old age homes can afford to provide quality service and care. Most of them are operated in rented premises and are not able to meet their monthly recurring expenses which are very high. The middle class families cannot afford these expenses. “The aged parents we have hail from middle class families. These families find the expenses too exorbitant. Many a times, children do not show up after three or four months. We then take the responsibility on our shoulders of bearing their expenses, through donations. It should be the prerogative of the government to build shelter homes for the senior citizens and also take care of them,” delineates Joseph.
There is also a positive side to this heart-breaking story. Many working children are trying hard to look after their parents in their own homes. They are hiring nurses to take care of their older parents in the cities while they are at work. Some others have made security arrangements for the elderly, like installing the CCTV cameras to watch over them while they are at work. In some cases, when the children themselves turn old and cannot take care of their own aged parents, only then they are put into old age homes. “It is touching to see some children and grandchildren making all possible efforts to take care of their own parents in their own homes. The elderly love care and attention which they deserve from their loved ones and in their own homes,” concludes Thomas.