A K Arora
Ageing, a global phenomenon, has become a gigantic problem for our country, because of population explosion as well as no visionary measures taken in time by us to cater to this problem. Life span has increased, 37years prior to 1947 and presently 67 years, expecting our newly born babies to live upto a ripe age of 100 years. The present population of senior citizens, nearly 11.4 crores, jumping to 32.6 crores in 2050, a sheer huge figure is an alarm for the society as well as the Government. Thus it is imperative for us to seriously think of this gigantic problem and think of a proper solution.
Ageing is not a new phenomenon and is natural and going on since the inception of life on this earth. Let us now analyse why this has become a problem only now? Joint family system was a way of life in the past. The parents as well as senior citizens were being looked after by their children and grand children. With the fast urbanization, industrlisation, mass education, affluence, career ambitions and many more factors have contributed to Nuclear families. A past slogan of Hum Do Hamare Do has also been a significant factor in this respect.
Higher education and ambitious career have resulted in children going out of the state as well as the country for green pastures, thus breaking of joint family system as a result thereof . Even the ones at home are helpless in view of their job requirements which forces them to travel long distances on works, consuming lot of time, thus leaving very little time for them to take care of their parents. However in some cases the parents become very useful and taken care of when they are assigned the duties of rearing up the children. It is true that in our country family ties are still strong and majority of parents live with their children, especially in rural areas, but with the changed scenario this is not going to last long.
Now let us see how this problem can be solved. There are two aspects of the problem. There are senior citizens who have been abandoned by their children, are destitute, have no resources to live, are sick and frail, have mental problems etc. The other section of the society are senior citizens who are affluent and willing to spend for their care and comforts but are alone, their children being away from the home.
Old Age Homes is the answer for the first category. We have a very nice old age home at Amphalla, Jammu. The home is there for the last more than two decades. Even with the present infrastructure the home falls short of the present day needs. There are such old age homes at Akhnoor (District Jammu), Udhumpur, Kathua etc. There is also one such composite home at Gujroo Nagrota, in Billawar District.These homes are running on charity basis. There may be many more such Homes at other districts also. One such Home , Shanti Niketan at Har Ki Pouri Bahu Fort is nearing completion and shall cater to the needs of senior citizens. J&K State social welfare Board is also contemplating for establishing a Composite Home for the society as well as for the senior citizens.
The Government of India laid down a policy for the older persons NPOP (National Policy on Older Persons 1999)and subsequently an Act .”Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007″ was enacted. However this Act was not extended to our State nor any Act has been enacted by the State Government so far. Under the provisions of Central Act, Old Age Homes are to be established at each District level. The Supreme Court has recently advised the Central Government to review the existing NPOP and modify it to suit the present requirements of the senior citizens. The State Government. however can not be made wholly responsible for the setting up of old age homes. It is the civil society also, which needs to be sensitized for such a need. The State Govt. can definitely come forward for allotment of free land or on lease to such of the NGO’s who are to establish these homes. Grant-in aid can be provided to such of the NGO’s which establish these homes. The of Jammu and Kashmir Bank can offer soft loans for the purpose. A Regulatory Authority can also be established for regulating working of such homes on a definite pattern as far as possible. I Thus the State Government. can definitely play an important role in this field and come forward to help the senior citizens. Corporate Houses can equally come forward for helping these homes out of their corporate social responsibility funds.
The answer to the second problem is to establish PAY AND STAY HOMES. A number of such homes have come up in our country in various cities. These homes are designed specifically for the convenience of senior citizens. These homes provide medical facilities, recreation and many more to meet the needs of senior citizens. Such homes are generally in the close proximity of Hospitals. This helps to meet any medical emergency. Generally the homes are only having ground floors and in other cases lifts are provided. Since these homes are run on commercial basis the tarrifs are different at different places. Living at such homes is comfortable with suitable environment and the best thing is that it provides an atmosphere where you do not feel lonely ,a disease that kills many a senior citizen.
There is no such home in our State. Bee En Charitable Hospital at canal road with the name ASHREY does provide such a facility.
Awareness ,however, needs to be generated by sensitising the civil society for establishment of such homes. We are blessed with abode of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and a Board to look after it’s affairs. Why can’t the shrine board come forward for establishment of such a home. A Super Speciality Hospital has been established by the shrine board and why not a PAY AND STAY HOME for the Senior Citizens. The Association has recommended to the Chairman of the Shrine Board for converting the Chentenya Ashram situated at Jammu , ( Tallab Tillo Bohri), into one such a home, as the Ashram stands taken over by the shrine Board.
Media, as all of us know, is most powerful instrument these days. It can definitely contribute to this social cause by sensitizing the civil society as well as make the GOVT. to take care of this problem well in time .The Association, through it’s Help Line has come to know about a number of people who want to come forward for such an adventure. Let the Civil Society and the Govt. come forward for helping such noble persons. The Association is always ready to help such people in the best possible way.
(The author is President, Association for Welfare of Senior Citizens (Regd)