What is old age? Old age is reflective of an old and failing body which will simply not cooperate. It lets one down every so often. Old age is a period of reversal of our faculties. Little babies are born totally helpless but are well taken care of, with great love and immense pleasure by all around. Later, as the child grows up, it becomes increasingly stronger, gains command all its faculties. As he grows into adulthood and gradually into being an aging senior, he starts losing control over his faculties, and one day, with a big jolt he realizes that he has become physically and mentally infirm.
Minor ailments and major diseases rear their heads and waking hours are preoccupied with pains and pills, diets and therapies. Doctor visits become routine, thoughts of impending mortality assume paramount importance. Financial burden becomes yet another problem. Despite large investments one has carefully managed to put by, the sum remains constant, while expenses mount. It’s not just medical bills but sky-rocketing prices of just about every day-to-day requirement that becomes unaffordable for most.
In the ensuing struggle to balance the books, many familiar trappings of life that one had become accustomed to, have to go – and this brings about helplessness and despondency. Added to this is the depressing anxiety of not knowing just how far ahead one must plan or for what period of time one needs to make the money last.
Our community members are blessed with longevity. Yet, the financial anxiety multiplies when old people are unable to support themselves monetarily. They look up to their children for physical and monetary support, but very often, children’s plans do not include them.
As old age brings with it the fading ability to concentrate, forgetfulness, inability to speak, hear, see, etc, the old individual gets relegated to sitting in a chair, pensive, vegetating, saying nothing, harbouring a lack of reason to live and a sense of self-redundancy. Urges to travel are killed by the lack of means. A sad sense of futility sets in. The problem gets accentuated as the world ceases to resemble to what the elderly were once accustomed to, with changes taking place at a bewildering pace.
The twilight years ought to be the best years of a person’s life – free from all responsibilities, with time to finally relax and relive the good old times. But unfortunately, it is not so today. Not long ago, the old would relax in their easy-chairs, with youngsters and family rallying around them. Their word was final; nobody dared displease or disobey the head of the family! Old mothers-in-law would order daughters-in-law around for doing all their chores!
Today, even before youngsters are married, they knock on the doors of Bombay Parsi Punchayet asking for a residence, to live on their own, without any interference from the elders of the family. The girls look at the prospective groom with distain and say, “Tari paase gher nathi! And you want me to marry you and expect me to live with your old parents!?”
The diminishing joint family system in the community and other social factors have created a need for old age homes. Often, elders, subjected to physical, emotional and financial neglect by their loved ones, consider old-age-homes the place where they derive emotional satisfaction.
Providing The Elderly A Dignified Life
I’ve been working for the elderly for over 32 years, having begun my career as a social worker in J J Hospital’s Parsi Ward. Throughout this tenure, I have spent more waking hours in the ward than in my own home. The Parsi Ward is like my own home and my dear residents are like my own family. When I spend time with them, I feel their pain, rejoice when they laugh and try comfort them in their twilight years, as much as I can. A recurring thought is what else could I do for this beloved family of mine?
I’m also associated with BPP’s F S Parukh Dharamshalla, where nearly 70 senior residents are housed and provided food, clothing and medical facilities. The day-to-day running of the institution is in the care of a team comprising a Resident Manager, Assistant Manager, Supervisor, day and night Nurses, Ward boys and Ayahs, ably guided and overseen by a Committee of committed ladies. Other Old age homes and hospitals I work with include the Gamadia Clinic, Masina Hospital and the Parsi General Hospital.
Nothing gives me greater happiness than to see the smiling, grateful faces of seniors who have handed over themselves to my care. If ever I hear a word of complaint from them, I do not feel bad; I make sure that the cause of their dissatisfaction is removed immediately. My goal in life is to serve them with total commitment and devotion; and that I intend doing till my last breath. I pray to almighty to give me strength and courage to serve them always!