April 25, 2010

SRI LANKA: Medical advances have brought longevity - and many aging issues

. CHENNAI, India / Sri Lanka Guardian / April 25, 2010 Issues facing elderly persons By N.S.Venkataraman While the improvement in medical science has enabled longevity of life for many people, this has also brought about many issues. There are number of instances that both the elderly parents and the children compliment each other in an elegant manner, with total understanding of each other’s needs. However, this is not always the case. At the fag end of one’s life, many of those who live beyond eighty years or so sometimes wonder as to whether such longevity is a blessing or curse. In most cases, such longevity of life is accompanied by ailments, which cripple the active life and increase the dependence on sons or daughters or even grand children to a considerable extent. Particularly when medical expenses become inevitable, in most cases, the dependence is not only for moral support but also for material support. With nuclear families becoming the order of the day and sons and daughters often going to distant places or abroad for employment, the elderly couple are forced to live alone in many cases. With materialistic pursuits receiving overwhelming priority amongst the younger people, the sons and daughters also feel on many instances that they cannot afford to make sacrifices in their professions or other interests for the sake of looking after their elderly parents. Also, there are some cases where the elderly couple find it preferable to live alone away from their sons and daughters even if they happen to be in the same city due to the compatability issue. However, it is not easy for elderly couple to live alone, particularly in present situation where the cost of living is spiraling up and security concerns create fear and anxiety. In the unfortunate cases, where the mobility of the elderly people make them disabled, living alone becomes tortuous for them. It is pathetic to see them struggling , with their children living away from them and just talking over to them during week ends or visiting them occasionally. The sense of loneliness and helplessness make them even more weak than what they actually would be. While old age homes are springing up all over the country both in big cities and small towns to cater to the needs of the elderly people, such old age home facilities can be availed only by those who can afford to pay. Many elderly people find that the old age home is actually not a real solution as what they need is some sort of emotional support which rarely happen in these paid homes. Even these old age homes can meet the needs only if the persons would be in reasonably good health. Photo credit: HelpAge Sri Lanka The plight of the elderly citizens become even worse when one of the couple happen to pass away which deny the survivor the emotional needs that is required and which can be provided with understanding only by the life partner. In recent times, there is considerable awareness among every one that some forward planning is necessary to ensure an honourable living at ripe age. People conserve the resources to the extent possible to reduce their economic dependence on their children . But, what about those elders who are not affluent and who cannot afford to have any savings at all ? Of course, there can also be the view that the elders should show greater understanding of the compulsions of the younger generation and the wisdom gained through age and experience should enable them to do so. However, in the case of those families where the younger generation do have problems in looking after the interests of elderly parents , some sort of counseling are required for the sons and daughters who should be enabled to develop an attitude of compassion and responsibility towards the parents and readjust their priorities to the extent possible , to meet the requirements of the elderly parents in tune with their aspirations and outlook. While earnings and jobs are important, they certainly can not be more important than keeping their parents comfortable and peaceful. Several sons and daughters often feel frustrated after their parent pass away that they have not done enough for their elderly parents while they needed support due to their frail health. There can be no greater satisfaction for anyone more than the feeling that they have done their level best to keep their parents happy when they were alive. [rc] Copyright © Sri Lanka Guardian