Issues Regarding Elderly People — Ageing Concerns
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 29 Jun 2020
Space and Time are usually treated by scientists as an integral concept. But there is a basic difference of time from space. We can travel from one place to another. But time is different in the sense that we cannot go back; we can go into future but not into past. Nonetheless, the well known scientist Albert Einstein considered space-time in a holistic manner and devised many unique theories on this basis, including the well known equation E = mc2 (representing the transformation of mass into energy). Although he talked of time in the past, present and future, he could not physically go into past. Einstein won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering research.
Most people–novelists, poets, painters, ordinary people–think and talk of a past that gives a glimpse of what a person was months or years ago. This is especially true for an older person. As we all know, a younger person — child or in his or her twenties or thirties, is very different from an elderly person in terms of physique, perspective, thoughts, abilities, etc. The older person is the same in terms of name, race, religion, citizenship and other common criteria that he was as a younger person, and yet becomes quite another in terms of his psychology, personality and thinking in contrast to that of a youngster.
In terms of these parameters, to call a person the same appears to be erroneous and problematic.
In a family or society we tend to feel that the other person is, if not the same, similar; has similar likes or dislikes; has similar hopes, desires and habits. Not identical, but similar. Consider students studying together in a particular course in a college or university. They have similar habits of studying together, going to the library, completing assignments given by their teachers. Similarly, they like to play games or sports, to dress nicely, want to see new and interesting historical places such as forts or temples or churches, mountains, hills, rivers or deserts. They like to go to theatres or cinemas and enjoy themselves by different means available in modern society.
For an older person, politely called senior citizen (above 60), the energy levels become low even if he/she is not suffering from any major disease. But to compensate for low energy levels, they have many memories — some pleasant, some painful. But what pains an older person is quite often being alone—loneliness, isolation. There may be other older folks living nearby with whom one may have some contact or interaction. However, while belonging to similar age groups, they often have dissimilar problems related to their health or their family lives or ideologies. Thus despite belonging to similar age groups, they often have differing problems which may accentuate their feelings of loneliness.
Younger family members often feel that older people share similar health problems and similar feelings, and consequently can become friendly with one another. This is so occasionally, but often old people do not quite gel with each other and thus their feelings of loneliness may be accentuated. There are old age homes or get-togethers for such people. They do serve a limited purpose but do not quite meet the needs of all elderly people.
Modern society and technology do provide some means of keeping oneself engaged even for elderly persons. Newspapers, television, smart phones with various apps, games or puzzles such as Solitaire or Sudoko can keep persons busy for some duration of the day.
However, what keeps many people, especially the elderly, engrossed are religious rituals, charities, and lectures on Gods and deities, on good conduct, spiritual life, after life, etc.
In all major religions of India — Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc, religious discourses and rituals are held regularly. Large number of people — men, women and children, are present at these events. Sometimes communal remarks are also heard at these discourses, but considering that they serve to reduce loneliness of the elderly people, we find that these religious gatherings are welcomed and are becoming increasingly popular.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness-ISKCON has many centres all over the world indicating the popularity of its movement among large sections of people — both men and women, elderly and young.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Jun 2020.
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