Sheeba Naaz, Sumiran
“An 80 year old Prime Minister is acceptable to us, but we show no respect to for the elderly at our homes,” points out Himanshu Rath, Chairman, Agewell Foundation. For him this kind of apathy arises from no sensitisation of the society towards elderly.

This is true in case of Mohanlal (name changed), who now lives at Durga Care Centre for elderly, an old age home based in Sainik Farms, New Delhi. Mohanlal was an Army Captain. This wasn’t the life that he had dreamt of after retirement. Despite having all the facilities and companions of his age, this old age home is no less than a jail for him. His children are settled abroad.
“Beta bola, pitaji aapke rehne ke liye ek achcha sa bandobast kiya hai. Hum to videsh mein rahengey. Aapko yahan India mein akele rehne mein taqleef hogi. To mujhe zinda rakhne ka yeh bandobast kiya hai” (My son said, dad we have found a good place for you to live. We will live in foreign and you would face problems in living alone in India. So this is the place where I am suppose to spent rest of my life), murmurs Mohanlal with sad eyes.

“Yahan to kuch kaam karne to nahi hai to main sara samay so kar nikalta hoon” (I have nothing to do throughout the day, so I spent most of my time sleeping), he adds.
“If we will continue to be ignorant towards the needs of elderly, loneliness will creep in and they will become irritable. Shunning them and sending them to an old age home is not a solution,” asserts Mr. Rath. “What has to be done is the sensitization of the society towards its senior citizens and the most important is the preparation for old age from the beginning. In India there is a concept of our children taking care of us when we grow old. Therefore, none of us really prepare for our old age,” he adds

India has the second largest number of elderly in the world with as many as 77 million in 2001. By 2050, this proportion is expected to increase by 21 percent (World Population Prospects, 2004). With the rising population of the elderly in India, lack of social security system, poor healthcare, complex geriatric aspects and an acute sense of alienation are major concerns.
Government came up with Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007. According to this bill, a person responsible for the upkeep of his/her parent, in case of failure, can be imprisoned for three months and a fine of Rs.5, 000. Besides, it also gives the provision to parents to revoke their will.

Government has several schemes for elderly but the most sought scheme is Government Pension scheme, which seeks to ensure that the settlement of Pension, Provident fund, Gratuity, and other retirement benefits are made at the appointed time. It is also proposed to set up a Welfare fund for the old age persons.

For Harish of Durga Center having legal rights is a good support system for senior citizens. “Having legal rights make the elderly confident and less vulnerable and also gives a sense of independence. But even if senior citizens might have all the legal rights in the world and best of medical schemes, they long for the family support. We can’t put everything on government’s shoulder and get away.”