by Adfar Shah
Yet another International Day of Older Persons passed unobserved. The state of the elderly in the valley reflects the declining societal response to the significance, dignity and issues of the aged. Like other places, the phenomenon of ageing has by and large been reduced to a stigma or treated as a social problem in the valley. Also, the efforts for objective and empirical research on ageing in academic circles; be that in the social, economic, demographic or domestic context is either invisible or too insufficient. The available researches are not reliable. Further, the Gerontology as a subject is missing and issues of the elderly still remain veiled, despite the growing population of aged worldwide.
Ageing is not a decay and meaningless retirement from a lively life. In present-day underdeveloped societies, it is identified as the period of ailments, dependence and non-contribution, loneliness and a disinclined wait for the death. Ageing actually is reliving the lived moments gracefully and with a more experience by converting experiences and encounters of yesteryears into golden moments of positive living and valuable sense of existence. Old age is the reward of a well-spent youth and one of the best chapters in the great book of life. But it is the social response to ageing that makes it a disadvantaged and stereotyped stage of life. Also, the blatant myths that today’s ageing population is posing bigger challenges to the international community in relation to their needs, which is not true because elderly utilize less, demand less, need less but can contribute more if involved affectionately, if given care, emotional support and dignity.
In today’s world, elderly persons are victims of violence; be that physical maltreatment at home, economic impoverishment or psychological/emotional abuse, avoidance of grandparenting to children, faulty socialization of children leading to the role snatching and lack of the authority of decision making of elderly. Further, emerging nuclear families and the rising family crisis has given rise to the loneliness, sense of social exclusion and alienation among the elderly. Kashmir, despite its rich traditional reverence for old age, is not an exception. Sociological research conducted a few years ago on the aged in Kashmir by sociologist Shahzada Saleem reveals that only 26% elderly in valley receive good treatment at the hands of children and 12% receive bad treatment, reflecting the mounting elderly chaos. Moreover, today’s Kashmiri family is more or less a filio-centric family, where the lead role is played by children. Thus in many cases, even the middle-aged parents suffer badly, not to talk of grandparents. Consequently, the aged turn senile, feel alienated and emotionally and economically broken and most of them desire death even when not so unwell.
Our response so far to address the issues of the elderly has been just paying a token monetary allowance and presuming that our job as a state was over. We are still to address the abject poverty and prevailing beggary among aged. We are yet to look into their plight at bank counters, their unattended situation in hospitals, their long waiting queues at welfare office doors, their plight in public transport, the routine oppression against them by wider society, etc, and our civil society, NGO’s, activists and general civilized society are yet to do their bit for restoring the dignity and ensuring a safe and abuse-free life to such a vulnerable and uncomplaining section of the society.
[The author is a Doctoral student of Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Mail at [email protected] ]