Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.
-Pearl S. Buck
By the year 2050 India will have the largest population of elderly people in the world, according to a projection based on the census taken in the year 2011. Being a welfare state, our governments are taking all possible steps to ensure that the elderly are treated well and taken care off. Maintenance and Welfare of Senior Citizens and Parents Act 2007 is just a step towards that ideal. In 2014 the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment submitted its report, recommending the following:
Implementation of Existing Policies, i.e.:
- Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007,
- Setting up a helpline for senior citizens,
- Establishing a National Commission for Senior Citizens, and
- Establishing a National Trust for the Aged
Apart from these the Standing Committee in its report also recommended the formulation of new policies and laws for the welfare of senior citizens. Some of the recommendations made with this regard were:
- A comprehensive law on social security
- Pensions, health insurance and tax exemption schemes
- National Council for senior citizens
- Expansion of old age homes and geriatric facilities
- Formulation of standard norms and guidelines for old age homes
With the increase in life expectancy rates the elderly population across the world has increased and continues to. In India it is expected that by 2050, 20 per cent of entire population would consist of elderly people (60 and above). All the above recommendations appear to be on the right track, but the question which still remains elusive is whether these steps will ensure that the elderly are respected, loved and taken care off instead of being deserted by their own children. As a welfare state, our country has to ensure the welfare of elderly people, but at the same time we should also do an inquiry into the cause of this malaise. One main reason for the poor plight of elderly in our society is weaning away from the age old joint family system. Orphanages and Old age homes are something which are never heard off in our society before the advent of the colonial rulers. The colonial rulers saw that the strength of our society lies in the family system and they systematically planned to corrode this system which is the repository of all values. When people drifted from the Joint family system to the nuclear families the immediate victims are the elderly ones in the family. The most loved and revered ones became a liability over a period of time because in the nuclear family the economic burden is not shared. Parents have to shuttle between the houses of their children and many of them lost a permanent home. They lost their emotional connect with their next generation and were left to ponder when they will get relieved of this painful existence. A society which placed Mata and Pita in a higher pedestal than even the God himself, is now frantically searching for ideal old age homes to dump its parents. This fall is the direct result of getting alienated from our values. Schools nowadays teach children life skills like, how to face an interview, how to take part in a group discussion, how to address people, building their vocabulary etc. these skills are very important and vital for anyone who wants to come up in life braving all the challenges. But along with these if the children are also taught the most important values like empathy, sharing, sacrifice, honesty, respect to fellow human beings, love towards nature etc. that will not only ensure that they imbibe good qualities but will also pave way for society sans Orphanages and Old age homes. Major role in designing an ideal future society lies in the hands of present day parents. If they fail to impart values to their children then they will emerge only as educated zombies. They should make their children realize that life is not just about rights to enjoy, but a lot more about responsibilities and duties to fulfill. Ideal society is not the one where there are adequate number of Old age homes with all the facilities, but the one which does not have the need to build Old age homes.