Reinterpreting Old age homes

oldagehomeFor the average Indian, the term “Old Age Home” conjures up images of destitute homes run by poor charities and populated with homeless people.  It is also tightly associated with a lot of negative emotions and conditions such as feeling unwanted, feeling deserted by children,  depression, destitution, poverty, terminal illness, disease and isolation.

This is because for a long time now in India, old age homes have existed only as charity run organizations catering to the poorest of poor. The super rich did not need any old age homes as they had their well-equipped bungalows with armies of servants, and the middle-class, well they managed with a little bit of help from their families, especially as long as the joint family concept was in vogue.

How things have changed in the last 20-odd years!

The burgeoning middle-class in their aspiration to get out of the middle-class bracket have been sending their children abroad for study and work.    Health care has improved.  People are living longer, more active lives.  And the joint family concept is extinct.  Pretty much the only thing unchanged is the governmental and infrastructural support, or the lack thereof, for the ageing population.

As usual, it is the private sector that has woken up first to the situation at hand, and a lot of old age homes,  nay, retirement communities have started cropping up to cater to the senior population in India that has been largely left to fend for itself.

If the senior citizens need to succeed in their quest for a safe, secure and comfortable life with dignity, the following things have to happen:

1.  Old age homes or retirement communities (the politically correct term) have to be accepted by the general population as a good thing.  The negative associations and the worry of what others may think should be dispelled.

2.  Awareness of what a retirement community should provide in terms of infrastructure and services should increase.

3.  Real estate companies should look at not just building “retirement communities” as a new way of selling properties to older people, but should tie-up with organizations capable of running and operating Old age homes.

4.  More companies should build the capability of running retirement communities in which all the needs of ageing people are taken care of .

5.  The elder population must feel that they deserve a life of dignity and safety till their last days and demand a high quality of service from these companies.

6. More Doctors should take up Geriatrics as their specialization.

7.  More hospitals should have Geriatric wards

8.  Finally, the attitudes of the younger generation towards the older population should change for the better.

Only when we have taken some of these steps can we truly begin to improve the lot of the 100+ Million people over the age of 60 in India.


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