Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The need to provide infrastructural and moral support to senior citizens..

June 15th was observed as Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

That got me thinking as to how inhumane the society around us can get. As the people who have shaped our lives have been given such treatment.  I remember my uncle telling me recently that in the United States of America many senior citizens are forcefully thrown in senior citizens homes. It's not too different in India too with many people disowning their old parents by considering them as a burden when they get old.

Very sad that we have to observe such a day. Our elders have given us life and brought us to where we are now. And as sons,daughters and as their grandchildren , it is our duty to care for them.

 As my aunt rightly told me it's because of their incomparable sacrifices , their attitude of putting all their worries aside so that their children can succeed in life is the very reason our generation are reaping the benefits of that. If not appreciating that fact, the least we can do is not to ignore them when they get old and sick.

All they want is a companion to share their thoughts with or just another person to share their feelings to. That's the bond I share with  both my grandma's and both grandpa's when they were alive. There is so much to learn from their vast treasure of experiences they have.

For example I can discuss about Cricket, movies and books with my grandma who I fondly call as Gulpi even now. It is a delight to see how she can relate to such topics despite her age. Not to forget she is the person who sat patiently with me and taught me Maths such that I could get decent marks throughout my school days.

Or the fact that I can get to know about the struggles my grandparents went through to bring up their children is a fact I can't relate to but their sacrifices are indescribable to say the least. Recently my grandma who is very religious wanted me to do a formal pooja to inaugurate me moving into my new flat.

Although I don't believe those rituals much, just to respect her feelings I went ahead with the pooja. I am sure she will be mentally satisfied with that gesture of mine. Which is all they need from our younger generation. I respected her faith in religious functions/poojas etc  and I think we can do small things such as these so that they are happy.

It is already a taken-for-granted inference that we have to care for the elders in our family and neighborhood. But how far can you support them when the state's infrastructure doesn't.

What I want to emphasize is  the lack of senior-friendly infrastructure in our country.With all the talk of support and respect for the elderly,India should ideally be the one having the best infrastructure for its senior citizens.

Sadly,this is far from  true to put it bluntly.

Let me go through some of the important pain points:

Crossing the Road:Just take the example of crossing a road.Bangalore traffic is chaotic,to say the least.And to cross the road in a busy intersection can be a nightmare even for a fit,able-bodied young man.Imagine the plight of our senior citizens.

Pedestrians in Indian cities do not get the respect and security that pedestrians get in developed countries.If the pedestrian happens to be an elderly person,it becomes even more difficult.

When walking on the road itself is difficult,where is the question of crossing the road.Unless there is a cop or a kind by-stander to help them,senior citizens just cannot cross to the other side of the road in Bangalore traffic.

This is where an iniative like the Community Safety warden ( a topic I wrote in one of my earlier blog posts) can help a lot. As there will be people who can guide those people to cross the literally non walkable streets without getting hurt or damaged.

Not Enough Parks/Senior Zones: Bangalore suburbs are not like the city center where there are enough parks for the elderly to loiter around. Some big apartment complexes have an 'Elders Corner'. But that's it. Elders have to contend themselves to that corner inside the apartment complex. Stepping out for a walk is definitely not recommended. As it can prove fatal for them considering the prevailing conditions.

At least for the sake of people like them ,our living places should have parks,temples,restaurants which are easily accessible for the elderly. Otherwise if senior citizens are willing to come out somewhere they tend not to because despite help from others they are unable to manage.

Hence they end up holed up in the houses of their children all the time which is sad and should be a cause for concern but sadly is not reflected in society generally.

Skywalks with many high steps: Recently,the BBMP people attempted to do something for this road-crossing nightmare.They put up some sky-walks to make crossing roads humanely possible.

Alas,the sky-walks with their high and umpteen number of steps are not what the elders can use.Many elders have arthritis,BP and what not.Expecting them to climb all those stairs is highly unfair.

The least the so called authorities can do is to do is to built more ramps so that these people who can't use these steps can walk using the ramps. This is something which is feasible and needs to be implemented.

Lifts Not Functioning in Sky-walks:  Most of the sky-walks built have lifts so that people can use them. But the question is how many of those lifts operate? And how many of them are safe and senior citizen friendly? Not too many is the answer.

I myself  use sky-walks on a regular basis and I can tell those lifts don't work most of the time or are out of bounds for senior citizens or people who need to use the lifts.

When I asked a traffic cop standing nearby about the lift, he replied that sometimes the lift works and sometimes it doesn't. I fail to understand the use of a non-functional lift. Waste of people's money and space.

Lower Berth Problem: The other dreaded scenario for elders is train travel. When we book the train tickets itself,we try to book lower berths. But most of the times, we don't get it.

It becomes a nightmare if we have to travel by train during the nights. People  literally have to beg people with lower berths to let the elders  use it.Some people are nice and accommodating. Most of them are not.

One of my friends recollected an incident where his father aged 58 had to sleep on the upper berth throughout a train journey from Bangalore to Varanasi. And how he couldn't walk properly for almost a month on his return because of terrible pain in his legs and knees.

Sometimes, the elders have had to sit through the whole night just because they cannot climb an upper berth allotted to them during reservation. Sometimes back I saw a news article stating that senior citizens will be given preference for lower berths. That's some sign of hope. Only time will tell if it will be implemented.

These are some of the common problems I have mentioned here.There might be many more instances where senior citizens are at the receiving end.

High time we take the concerns of our seniors into consideration. More senior-citizen friendly infrastructure and arrangements are needed in our country. These are not the problems some old men or women is facing.

Remember that providing moral support is equally important as these glaring infrastructural loop holes I have mentioned in this blog post. I just wanted to highlight them as it's so commonly visible and yet nothing gets done to improve the prevailing situations.

Whenever you can do support them. I myself have been sometimes to elders , an aspect of my behavior which I will change as those are the people who have had to endure tremendous emotional, financial hardships in order to bring us in what situation we presently find ourselves in.

The infrastructural loop holes is something which may never be changed but what we can do is to provide these people a living environment where they feel that they are cared for and are loved and are part of the family. By doing that we don't let them feel completely helpless and hence become a liability or burden to handle.

I treat my elders in a respectful way. The question is do you the readers do the same?

Having a day for elders awareness abuse day doesn't speak well for the society in which we live in. It's time to let the humanity come out in us in order to improve this situation so that maybe in future such days will be celebrated.

We should remember that we will become  senior citizens too someday  and if things don't improve soon, we will be the ones who will be at the receiving end of this in the coming years.

No comments:

Post a Comment