… P. N. Wali
Elderly in the community
of the serious issues presently coming up is the problem of the aged. This
does not only concern society as a whole but has special ramifications as
far our community is concerned. It is time we start thinking seriously
With the increase in average life span (63 years at present) the
number of old people in the society is increasing. These are people who
have already spent their working life. They have less income, if any, at
this stage. Even the savings made in the past have started yielding less
and less of returns due to the decrease in the interest rates. Their needs
for increased medical attention increases expenses on this account. A
stage comes when they are not able to fully look after themselves and need
physical help even for day to day activities.
Besides the physical and financial needs, there are the
psychological needs, need for expression and need for association. With
the age, insecurity also increases. One looks for support from those
around him. The psychological needs are sometimes more difficult to meet
than even the physical ones.
The needs of the old people have become more pronounced due to the
breaking up of the joint family system in our country. Under the umbrella
of joint family, the old received both physical and psychological support.
And they were many times given the honour of heading the family unit. The
fall of joint family system is an accepted fact now and we need not go
into its causes, whether they were inroads of the new patterns of thinking
among the young or the imperatives of the clustered city life etc. The
greatest victims of the demise of the system are the old people.
Let us see the problem from our community perspective. We have
stuck to joint family system much longer than others have, and nuclear
families have invaded us less till our young people were forced to look
for greener postures outside Kashmir where all opportunities of occupation
and progress were denied to them. The old generally stuck to their homes
in the Valley, visiting their offspring in winter months and getting their
visit back in the summers. While they enjoyed the partial family union for
part of the year, they had the sense of security in their homes and
society. Even this has fallen apart with exodus. The secure epicenter in
the Valley is lost. Youngsters are scattered around the country if not the
globe. Such places can not often accommodate the old. Where will they go?
Many of them have opted for Jammu city, even constructed a couple of rooms
to accommodate themselves to escape payment of monthly rent. They find
many of their relatives at least of their age in Jammu. They can meet them
more often. Jammu not being a very big town, travel within the city is
possible and effortable. To fill the psychological gulf, the temples and
ashrams build in Jammu with their enumerable havans and annual days, do
their spiritual best.
But how far will this quasi settlement of old and the weary
continue. Further increase in the age and losing of life partners will
make things more difficult. World over efforts have been made to help this
situation institutionally. Old age settlements are coming up. These are
not necessarily charities. The inhabitants pay for keep. But hey provide
all the facilities, physical security, medical attention etc. What is more
important is that they become communes for the old. They mix and socialize
among themselves. Few of such places have come up in some other places in
Could we think of something like this for our community. I wish we
would. They will be needed before long. And our elders will feel more at ease with their own kind rather than in a mixed crowd. Old
age homes of this type, partially or fully run as charitable institutions
may also be required. These will for beneficial for the people who need
old age support of all kind. If initiative is taken in setting up these
places their will be people ready to support the cause.
I wish the thinking in the community should start now. This year has been declared by the UN as year of the old.
Many suggestions have been given in the UN declaration. But note worthy is
the fact that it also wants special attention for old people who have been
refugees. We are a typical example of the refugees in our own land. Our
old people therefore come in the category envisaged by the UNO. We need to
follow it up.