Ageing Is not Senility

Haribol Acharya

“Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better.”
                                                                                                                                          — Ingrid Bergman

Ageing is a stage of life only the fortunate can reach. It is ripening in experiences and skills. Ageing is not senility, it is a phase of life at which one feels the flowering  of one’s thoughts into a reality and fruiting of his long held aspirations, though at times it becomes frustrating and shatters some of our dreams as well. Ageing is doubtlessly coming to see the full picture of living; it is the destination of life everyone born in this world loves to reach. It is a mountain peak from which one can see the world more profusely and vividly.

Growing in years in essence is a coming of age. And it must not be a time for repentance and remorse even if one has gone through a lot of taxing periods committing blunders and messes. Rather it is an ideal rite of passage for celebrating with family and friends and rejuvenating and reliving our beautiful desires and dreams.

If ageing means living beautifully and meaningfully why the heck people are reluctant to age or grow old? There are indeed mountains of difficulties, complications, challenges and teething troubles. The fact, however, one should learn is life without challenges becomes a real bore, for catches and hitches help us mature into manhood / womanhood, virility   and vitality. Ageing means growing into beauty and vivacity. Imagine you are an infant or youth for good. In a while you start loathing your infancy or youthfulness. Change is fructification, and change keeps life growing.

However, ageing is not always a rosy stage and the journey becomes many a time a bitter experience for so many people for reasons that are controllable at times and at other times they become insurmountable. Family care is not available to everyone; and some have children who never care for their ageing parents; and even if one is massively rich, he becomes emotionally empty and abandoned. When people become aged, they become more and more sensitive and  even small pains or shocks become overwhelming to them.

The single most serious problem and challenge for ageing people in Nepal and elsewhere is they are living in isolation. In Nepal, these days, the trend of children growing abroad is immensely increasing. And in most homes in Nepal oldsters are living the life of abandonment in some cases when their children are abroad, and in others even if they are with them. Children are obsessed with their jobs and have little time for their parents since all they are concerned with is raising their lifestyles at any expense, for in today’s consumerist society more and more has been the norm.

One of the biggest hurdles facing the elderly is the lack of financial intelligence. In the context of South Asia in general and Nepal in particular people commit blunders by giving all they have to their kids. First of all South Asian countries that mainly comprise of developing or underdeveloped countries. As such the majority live on agricultures for their sustenance and since when family divides or partitions the limited amount of land the meager incomes from the lands become insufficient to run growing family expenses. As such children try to get or inherit most of what parents have, thus leaving parents poor.

In Nepal we have no special medical service delivery system to the elderly people nor any special hospitals dedicated to treat the elderly people. In western countries, there are geriatric hospitals or care units wherein elderly people with multiple diseases or sicknesses can find special attentions or there are doctors who have specialization in age related syndromes.

I often feel that elderly people in cities are living like caged animals. They are inside high-walled buildings in cities, for growing in prosperity means living in big cities with big walls and gated houses.  Particularly if they have migrated from the village, they lose touch or contact with society.  All day they have to live like jailbirds within big gated residences. Their working children have very little time for them. If the elderly person is widowed, they become more unfortunate, for they will have no one to talk with throughout the day. Even in the evenings when their children return home from their jobs, they will have little time for their parents. Secondly there is a vast generation gap between them and therefore no communication goes smoothly between them. As such they become totally secluded even they have families. What crucial is such elderly people need a community of their own wherein  people of similar age  and stage can interact and share their joys and pains; a society wherein they feel a sense of belongingness. At the same time, they need geriatric centers where they can get special attention from their age groups or specialized doctors. The poor and middle class families cannot afford to put their elderly family members in such health centers or care units. It is the role and responsibly of the government to take care of such senior citizens.

Today with more and more people are going abroad both in cities and villages elderly people are getting neglected more than ever before in time. A few decades ago people had simple lives. Most homes had no compound walls. Even in cities people used to get together for so many rituals and cultural programs that enabled the elderly to talk and cooperate with each other. Even in villages such gatherings are disappearing. People in most villages are thinning out. Many homes are abandoned with people migrating to nearby cities. Even if some people live there their children leave homes for education or jobs to cities or some of them go overseas. As such the elderly become secluded.

While ageing is not a bane, something despicable in society, it is nevertheless full of teething problems. Making ageing easy, beautiful and enjoyable demands a lot of cooperation from family, society and government. Everyone has to reach this stage if one lives long enough in life.

Barring some of the emotional and health issues ageing never becomes an appalling stage of life. Ageing opens up a door to knowledge, wisdom, and maturity. With ageing one sees and experiences a complete picture of life. It is a time to remind of beautiful desires and aspirations that remained held up at the back of the mind in their earlier days of responsibilities.

Let us make ageing the spring of life and graceful. Let it give us ample freedom and vitality to make it a fulfilling and rewarding stage of life. It demands tremendously of family members to let ageing people live happily and meaningfully. It does not demand a lot of cost but nevertheless it demands a lot of care and concern.