A senior person of my acquaintance, who is in his late sixties, had a severe attack of Cardiac Asthma recently. This person lives alone in Pune, as he is a widower, having lost his wife few years ago. He immediately contacted his neighbours, who got in touch with this person’s physician. The Doctor rightly advised this person to get admitted to a nursing home. This person actually has two married sons and is financially well settled. One of the sons is settled in USA and the other one stays in India but in a different city. According to Doctor’s advice, his neighbours and friends, immediately got him admitted to a hospital and also informed his son, who lives in India, about his condition. The medical staff at the hospital took good care of the person. The son, living in India, reached Pune within a day along with his wife. Meanwhile the neighbours and friends took good care of the person. The son and daughter in law, took over the patient care after their arrival in Pune. The neighbours and friends obviously could not continue to look after him as they had their own families and lives to care for. Since the illness further requires some amount of after care for a considerable length of of time in future, the son has started insisting that his father should travel along with him to the city where he stays and works so that proper after care can be continued. To take this decision of shifting to a new unknown town, is proving a real dilemma for this person.
Since his wife passed away, couple years ago, this person is now used to live quite comfortably his life alone and on his own. His daily schedule, which friendsito meet and at what time; is all a part of his routine. For a senior person of his age, absolute regularity is probably an essential part of his daily life. Time to wake up, going for a walk and adhering strictly to a menu and timings for his meals are all essential parts of his daily schedule. About an year ago, this person went to USA to visit his elder son. He just about managed to live there for couple of months and returned with a depressed mood. Financially, his elder son is quite well off and looked after his visiting father with care. However this person suffered on two counts. Most of the seniors , who go to these western countries to visit their children, always have a feeling of economic dependence, because of the wide difference in cost of living and exchange rates. The simple things like having a cup of coffee, which they can easily afford in India, works out to be expensively deterrent. This means that for every small thing, they have to depend on their children. Secondly, nonn availability of public utility like transport in these places, affects their mobility and for making a even short trip, they need to take help from their children. These visiting seniors, start getting a feeling of loneliness because their regular friends are left behind in India and they are unable to to move on their own in the foreign land. Most of seniors, who go abroad to visit their children, return back in a very unhappy state of mind. This person of my acquaintance had similar experience and had returned back to India with a firm decision of his mind; never to go back again.
Even when this person goes to visit his younger son living in India, but in a different city, the problem still persists. His son and daughter-in-law are comparatively younger; both work, and live in a smaller apartment. As a result, their life style lacks regularity of any kind. One day they may get up early in the morning but on the next day, even at 9 AM, everyone would be sleeping soundly, the day being a weekend. The meals are erratic menu wise and also there is no fixed time. On a day there would be no breakfast and there would be only a brunch at 11 AM. Next day lunch would be served at 2.30PM. There is no fixed menu and all kind of dishes from Bombay mixture, south Indian Idli’s or mexican taco or Italian Pizza or Pasta are as much enjoyed as spicy Indian dishes with Masala. There is essentially nothing objectionable in this as the son and his wife are young and want to enjoy their life and this randomness in eating pattern is perfectly acceptable and enjoyable for them. Their father finds this continuous change in meal timings and constant variations in menu, quite irritating and unsuitable for his health. Whenever he goes on a visit, he starts having minor complications with digestion and feels very unhappy there. For this reason only, he prefers to stay alone in Pune, where he can live life according to his own style.
The new illness has now created a situation of Hobson’s choice for my acquaintance. His physician feels that he should not stay alone now because of the Cardiac Asthma as emergency situation could arise any time. As a result, my acquaintance finds himself in depressed condition and he is really undecided about the future.
Taking a macro view, I have a feeling that this question faced by my acquaintance is actually a common problem faced by the elders in our society. The new generation thinks and acts independently and want to spend their own life as they wish and I do not see anything wrong in it. On the other hand, the population on the wrong side of the sixties, also correctly feels that they should not be a burden on their children and should be able to live balance years of their life on their own. In western countries, almost all seniors live independently and alone. However they have one big advantage. The medical and other types of civil facilities available to them are of high grade and user friendly. In India, seniors get facilities only on paper. In practice the seniors face a very difficult living condition. That is why staying independently and alone, as westerners do, is so problematic in India.
I do not know, what this person of my acquaintance would finally decide. If I have to hazard a guess, I think that he would continue to stay in Pune all alone and independent as previously.