Unpleasant tales of what sons and daughters do to their aging, or aged, parents make headlines, time and again.
We cluck our tongues, wonder what the world is coming to, and get on with our lives. Superficially.
In our hearts, however, the worry remains. What will become of us when it's our turn to be helpless and dependent? What'll happen when one of us "departs?" How will we live without the other? What if the spouse gets bedridden?
For those who have a regular income, a pension, for example, there is some respite. For those who have a home, even better. And, if there are caring neighbours, that's God's own blessing.
But, what if you have caring and loving children, but they aren't near you? What if they are caring and loving now, but you aren't sure what the future might hold? Or, perhaps, you want to live on your own anyway? Should you continue to live with them? What if they need your house and you're the one who has to move out? How gloomy is that? What about that dreaded word, "Old Age Home?" Will you lead the last days of your life in one of them?
Actually, why not?
Talk to your children, if you can, and tell them what you have in mind - that you'd like to retain your independence. If you can afford a separate house, or flat, in their vicinity, buy one. This has its advantages. You're near, yet not coming in anyone's way. If you aren't on good terms with them, accept the fact honestly and decide on a senior citizens' colony. There'll be less of daily irritations, and unpleasantness.
Do some homework
There are organisations, like the Dignity Foundation and Helpage India, and private institutions that have built communities for our silver folk. The price ranges from those who'd like to be in the lower bracket to the upper end - one that gives you all the comforts you're used to. Most have provision for common dining as well as private kitchens.
It would be wise to consider medical facilities and pay extra for them, too. Some take hefty deposits, but they have small outgoings. There are some trusts [I know of one near Nerul, Navi Mumbai, which is family-owned] that take very little money, yet provide a clean, wholesome environment. Many of these "homes" are in tranquil locations, surrounded by nature, greenery, and trees.
Don't feel unwanted
Living in an old age home need not make anyone feel "unwanted." Consider it to be the last era of your presence on earth: make it peaceful, meaningful, and joyful.
Most religions and philosophies advise detachment and faith in Providence. Resign yourself to the inevitable, and accept what comes your way [Sounds preachy? But, it's true!].
Indulge in whatever you always wanted to do. Stick to a routine you're comfortable with, without having to adjust to school-timings, office-work. not yours, but of the younger generation. If you have folks you know in the same home, fine; otherwise, make friends among inmates.
In fact, it's not a bad idea to connect with cousins or ex-colleagues when you select a home. But, if you have to go alone, don't worry, you'll get to know those from other professions and backgrounds, and this is an advantage by itself. Here, we may add that many communities have their own homes that provide comfort to those who like their kind of language, food, and culture.
In Goa, for example, there's a home not far from a famous temple; it helps with community service and religious requirements. Some institutions like the Defence Services also have their own homes, so that retired people can live a life similar to what they've been used to. In fact, retired servicemen seem to have much more fun out there than they did when they were serving, when life was really tough.
In the dinnertime of your life make use of all your talents and experience. Step out and help the local villagers or town children with maths, or accounts, or drafting letters, or music. Make this your time to learn something new, computers or pottery, for example. Collect jokes. It's the best way to make friends.
In case you feel you might be cut off from your family/children, remember, the mobile revolution has changed the world. Day or night, through all seasons and for all reasons, you can remain "connected" with your beloved ones.
Accept the fact that you are, indeed, old. Accept the fact that doing all the housework is going to get harder by the day. Your frailty is going to be a problem in the future, you will need help in many ways, your memory won't be as good as it once was, or now is, you will have to pay your bills, stand in queue, deal with vendors. the list is endless. Isn't it?
So, why not consider the option of having it all done for you? You've led your life, run the race, done your duties, and now's the time to "retire." Retirement is not a bad word. Think of it positively, to live vibrantly, and in active retirement. No one's asking you to sleep all day. This is the time of your life you should be free from frenetic career moves, cooking, cleaning, washing, tidying, chopping, grinding, wiping, chores, chores, and more chores.
And, as for those who fear being alone, let us cull this thoughtful quote: "We come alone, depart alone, a time called life we share."
Finance is Fundamental
Hard though it may sound, money matters greatly in old age. Not just when you have to give gifts for festive occasions, not just for survival, or medicines, but for comfort. If you haven't already catered for electricity bills, an odd play, a music programme, or travel to a dream location, you could do so now.
Keep aside a couple of hours a week to organise your fixed deposits, life and health insurance, mutual funds, and shares. Get professional help if you can't manage them on your own. In the long run, this "interest" [pun not intended!] in your own finances will pay you rich dividends. And, it'll give you a great sense of security.
At no stage should you feel financially low, or "discarded," because you are in a "Home for the Aged."
Spot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!