Ageing alone isn’t uncommon in Western countries as children usually leave their parental homes for college and continue to live separately. However, in India, ageing alone is fast becoming a reality only because children pursue their careers outside their home cities and countries. Today, we have seniors living independently in many households, and slowly, senior communities are also losing their taboos. It is natural to want some company when ageing and facing mental and physical issues.
Sometimes, it helps to discuss issues with your peers in similar situations. It gives some relief, companionship, and an I am not alone in this feeling that can help you remain less anxious. Especially post the pandemic, people all over have realised the power of neighbours, society, and community to pull through difficult times when families are away.
Before we see how society can play a role in ageing alone, let us understand the aging-related problems.
Here are some changes in Indian society that have caused some issues for the ageing population.
Social: Rapid urbanisation of families has resulted in migration with or without parents to cities. Either way, there is an issue. Older people moving to unknown cities will take time to settle down in new surroundings, especially if they are from rural areas. There is a weakening of intergenerational ties either due to the nuclear family concept or the busy schedules. People have less quality time to spend with each other.
Financial: While life expectancy has increased, issues like pollution, adulteration, the pandemic effect, etc., have caused mental and physical health issues. Therefore, people need to spend more on health insurance or hospital bills. This scenario is causing some disillusionment for retirees, as they must manage their finances accordingly. The disillusionment is more if the seniors have mobility issues, do not have regular income like pension or rent, etc., and depend on their kids for money or other needs.
Health-related: Ageing causes health issues such as deafness, balance issues, cataract, etc. Some face mobility issues and may need joint replacement surgeries, physiotherapy, etc. Falls are common, and a few people also develop dementia and other cognitive disabilities.
Imagine facing these issues even as you are ageing alone. It sounds scary. And that is why seniors should learn to harness the power of society.
How to harness the power of society?
Here are a few steps seniors can follow to ensure they are not isolated and become a part of an inclusive society.
- Build a community around you
Seniors need to build a community around them. The community can be neighbours, morning or evening walk friends, some common hobby or activity groups, etc. Making this community a part of their daily routine can help seniors to be mentally and physically active. It also gives a direction to their lives, to look forward to meeting them and discussing with them daily. Also, seniors can volunteer as office bearers for their resident welfare association. It is another way of being occupied and gives satisfaction by being of help to the community.
Volunteering opportunities exist through various NGOs and apartment associations that seniors can explore to spend their time productively and contribute to society.
The benefits of this community work both ways. The community can help seniors with any issues in times of need, and the community benefits from the valuable time and experience of seniors.
- Be independent, but not alone!
Seniors need to live independently for as long as they can. However, being independent does not necessarily mean being alone! Seniors must learn to keep their network close and yet maintain their independence. The network must act as a safety net of trusted people with whom they can share everyday issues to find help when needed. These people will also serve as immediate backups to check on them if they suddenly become absent from their daily activities. For example, someone will try to know why you did not go for your walks or yoga classes for two days. The independence will ensure you can chart your course, make your own decisions, etc. So, there is help when needed, but when you need space, you can have that also.
The key is to create a social calendar that includes regular community activities and be in touch with people around. Contribute in ways you can, if you can. There should be no compulsion on seniors to do anything. However, without harnessing the power of society around them, they may become isolated, which is not good.
One way to realise the above action items is through Samarth Privilege. It offers seniors lifestyle, healthcare, and savings options to help them get more out of life. This membership gives you easy access to hobbies, travel, information, social events, expert advice on healthcare, money, legal matters, and more. It also helps you bond with like-minded seniors and create an impact in society through various programs. It also helps reduce healthcare expenses through tie-ups with 9000+ providers across India.
You can approach the Samarth Privilege helpdesk for assistance with your problems anytime. So, it is the one-stop solution to build your community.