Retirement for Indian women – a pipe dream?

chained to kitchenEarly yesterday morning one of our customers called me to order a few things. She is in her early 80’s and her husband is in his mid-80’s and suffering from Alzheimer’s. As usual, she used this opportunity to share with me some of the problems she had been facing recently. Apparently the house keeping maid was down with the ‘flu and things were a mess around the house. “I am not able to look after him, cook and clean the house like I used to when I was younger”, she lamented.

That’s when it struck me. While her husband had retired over 20 years ago, this lady still had a full time job (more like 2-3 full time jobs actually) with no retirement in sight. At 80, she was still cooking all the meals, looking after the house, managing all the house help and the nursing assistants apart from looking after her husband!

Then I thought of many of our other customers (and all the women in my life and family) and I realized this was the case for most women in India. The truth is there is no retirement for women in India.

For a woman to be truly retired, she must get her freedom from the kitchen.

And that is where retirement communities score huge points. I can stick my neck out and say that a home in a nice retirement community is the only hope for a woman to truly achieve retirement.

Later in the day, I called my customer back and spoke to her at length about the concept of retirement communities, about how they provide safety and companionship, how they can help her escape the clutches of day-long, nay, life-long drudgery and how she would not have to worry about house keeping, truant house help and cooking, about the medical and emergency facilities that are provided, the security that they will have inside a gated community and how for the first time in her adult life, she will have an opportunity to lead a carefree life.

She heard me patiently but did not seem convinced. She had a million worries… “How can I uproot my husband from a house he lovingly built and lived in for 50 years?”, she asked. I did not have the heart to tell her he does not remember anything. “All our friends are here, how can we leave them and move so far away?”. I wanted to ask her how often her friends visited, but the words would have sounded too harsh, so I just bit my tongue and kept quiet. Finally, she asked “What will others think if we move into an old age home?”.

I asked her to think through and gently put the phone down. I know my work is cut out. It is going to take a long time for us to convince people about the benefits of moving into retirement communities, but I am steadfast in my belief that that is the only safe and sensible alternative for the tens of thousands of old people suffering without adequate support from friends and family.

Hopefully, the retirement communities deliver on their promise!


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