It is special, because, ever since 1991, it has been observed as the International Day of Older Persons, as declared by the UN General Assembly in its resolution dated December 14th, 1990.
It is a day to appreciate the contribution made to the society by the elderly, and to create awareness about issues affecting them, to put it in simple terms.
Haven’t we all , at some point in our lives, experienced what it is like to be with older people ? Say, our grandparents, in most cases, or our great grandparents, in a few blessed families ?
On a personal note, I am fortunate to have been blessed that way.
My mother’s mother, was with us till she passed away peacefully at the age of 82, five years back, and my paternal grandfather, who lived with us, was 92 when he left for his heavenly abode before two years.
That means, I was able to spend a solid chunk of twenty plus years of my life with them both.
The memories are still fresh in me.
Basking in the warmth of their love as a child….
Feeling proud and happy for their support in all my mischief….
Proudly announcing to them that I had come first in my class and getting appreciated with a pat on my back
Demanding my share of cashewnuts from ammamma everytime she made payasam :-)
Accompanying grandpa to the post office at the end of every month to collect his pension
Visiting ammamma every month and spending the day listening to her old stories, snippets of anger, her disappointments and just being there for her to share it with me……
Drawing from their well-learnt experiences of life…
Seeking their guidance when situations stymied us……..
An endless list.
Every time I had to attend an exam or a competition, or when I had to compere an event, I would ring up ammamma, who then lived with my uncle, and inform her. She would be happy that I called her and wish me good luck. At home, grandpa would be equally enthusiastic about it. He would ask me whether I had prepared well. And he would bless me too. All this added to my confidence and helped me overcome my apprehensions. They had more faith in my abilities than I, myself did.
I still remember the way my grandpa would make me sit down and teach me the Bhagavad Gita, when I was a five-year old. He would read out the tough Sanskrit Slokas, and patiently correct me, when I went wrong and sit with me as I struggled with the pronunciation till I got it right.(When he wasn’t around, it was Babuji’s turn to do this). My liking for Scriptures, Epics and Mythology was fuelled by these exercises with him.
Similarly, I am indebted to ammamma for teaching me to read and write Tamil, my Mother Tongue.
There are many things to share about them, but that’s not the point of this post.
Even as we have an International Day being observed for the Older persons, we are witnessing the mushrooming growth of Old Age Homes.
We no longer need the elderly to live with us. We see them as an encroachment on our privacy. We are fed up as they struggle to live with their Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We have received what they could give us, in the form of money or time or physical help. But now we don’t need them because they are old, they need to be taken care of ,they need to spend time with us ( and we don’t have time, see), they cannot contribute to the family economy, they don’t know that our project deadlines are more important to us than their birthdays, they don’t understand the jokes of the young……an ignominious list of reasons.
And we , their children, are earning in dollars and pounds ; we have all ways of procuring the best for them in material sense- the best homes, the best treatment in the best of the hospitals, the best housemaids, the best home-nurses, the best holiday homes, the best of all that money can buy. Yes, we can send them to the best of the old age homes too, for a big fat donation that we can give. See ?
That’s why we have the mushrooms growing all over.
That’s why many of us leave them there so that they could spend their time the way ( we think) they want ( only if we knew what that actually meant!!! )
That’s why many of us don’t even return from the glory of the so called Foreign Countries, even when we learn of a bereavement….
Because we are insensitive to their needs.
Because we take them for granted and feel that what they did for us was their duty and not a sacrifice.
Because we believe that we can replace all that they have endured for us.
Because we believe that they have outgrown their utility.
And We !!
We overlook or rather conveniently forget the fact that we would grow old tomorrow.
We don’t give them the best of what we can give – our love , care and time.
We feel we would be insulated from all this when we reach the evening of our lives !!
Unless our attitude changes, nothing will change.
Let’s open our eyes and face it.
I shall reap what I sow, so I better farm properly now.
I shall gain the interest on what I invest ; then I might as well invest properly.
The age old dictum.
Let’s love them. Support them. Spend time with them.
Don’t send them to old age homes.
Send them to Old Friends Clubs instead. Something that will keep them creative, happy, occupied and energetic.
A place where they can spend the mornings when we are away at work, talking, meeting like-minded people, engaging in social activities, or short trips or religious activities or even fun activities.
When we are back from work, let’s sit with them and talk about the day.
Let’s share our days with each other.
They will understand us, as they were young once.
And we need to understand them now ; we are going to be there soon !!
*ammamma - Tamil / Malayalam equivalent of maternal grandmother.
*Image courtesy - Wikipedia