A home for Senior Citizens

Ashok Arora
Demographic ageing,, a global phenomenon ,has hit Indian shores also. Life expectancy has increased manifold. Average life span was only 30 years prior to 1947. Now the same has gone up to 67 years. The Steady rise predicts that children born now shall live upto a ripe age of 100 years.
Improved life expectancy has correspondingly increased the number of Senior Citizens above the age of 60 years. At present in India we have such a population of nearly 11.3 crores. Out of this figure 5.7 crores are the males With this trend we shall have a population of senior citizens of the order of 19.8 crores in the year 2030 and 32.6 crores in the year 2050,nearly three times the present population The sheer magnitude of this figure is an alarm for the society as well as the Government.
In India it is customary for the women to marry men of older age by several years. This has resulted in increased population of widows. In 1991 there were 1.5 crore widows compared to only 45 lacs. Widowed men.
A small family norm slogan “ HUM DO HAMARE DO” in the past was good but with the industrilisation, urbanisation ,education, nuclear families , values of life have changed.. Career ambitious children have moved out of the homes and even the country for green paustures, leaving behind their parents alone. Working couples ,distant work places, caring children have resulted in very little caring for the oldies. However in some cases couples find old parents very useful to rear up their children but it happens for a short period only. It is true that in our country family ties are still strong and majority of parents live with their children but with the changed scenario this may not hold good for long.
A state, within limits of its economic capacity , has to look after the welfare of its senior citizens as mandated in the Indian Constitution under article 41. Right to equality under the constitution equally applies to senior citizens as their fundamental right. Social security is the responsibility of the state . General Assembly of united nations in 1991 & 1992 passed a resolution aimed at encouraging the Governments to design their own policies and Acts for the senior citizens.
Government of India ,in its wisdom , framed a National Policy for the old persons in the year 1999. In accordance with this policy an act “THE MAINTENANCE AND WELFARE OF PARENTS AND SENIOR CITIZENS ACT 2007” was enacted and extended it to whole of INDIA except the state of JAMMU & KASHMIR.. This ACT applies to Indian citizens and Indians outside the country. So far we do not have a state policy in this respect. We do have a similar Act 2014 but not made applicable so far inspite of lapse of two years. . THE ACT 2007 binds even the grand children and the relatives, who would inherit their properties, for maintenance of parents to enable them to live a normal life. It is unfortunate for the parents and senior citizens of the state to have been denied the relief which flows from such a legal provision. Legislaton may not solve the various problems of the parents and senior citizens but it definitely acts as a deterrent. Family ties in our country are still so strong that a very few percentage of people have taken the shelter of this Act.. The Act also binds the states to establish OLD AGE HOMES at least one at each district in a phased manner, provide suitable medical care, protection of life and property etc. The obligation under the ACT binds the children and the relatives, as the case may be ,to maintain the parents to lead a normal life. The ACT also binds the State Govt. to constitute Tribunals for the purpose.
Awareness is a very important aspect and the Act binds the State Govt. to create awareness amongst the people through various means available with it. THUS Media, both print and electronic, is to play a very important role in this respect. This is being done very recently by few T.V. channels. Awareness can be made by various N.G.O.s engaged in this noble work by visiting schools and colleges. The State Govt. needs to encourage such NGOs .Dramas, Acts, &Plays can definitely contribute to the cause. We have an Academy of Art & Culture which can design and mould their outputs for its various organs and groups . It is an admitted fact that dramas and plays leave behind a deep impression on the minds of youth and thus this
media can definitely promote the concept of ageing and strengthen the integration bonds. Celebration of ELDERS DAY on 1ST. of OCT. every year throughout the world is another step to create awareness amongst the youth about their responsibilities towards their parents and senior citizens.
The State alone can not provide all the services needed by the older persons and the civil society is required to come forward to help mitigate the difficulties of senior citizens. Society if properly sensitized can definitely help in caring and sharing welfare of senior citizens. The society needs to change their mindset with the changing times. The present changed scnerio needs to adopt and accept the role of married daughters. This shall be a further step towards empowerment of women .
OLD AGE HOMES are available at many places. These are being run on charity basis. We have one in JAMMU which is doing a wonderful job for the destitute older people. This one is not sufficient and we need one such home for each district. Avery minor grant-in-aid from the Govt. flows to this home at Jammu.
In these times there exists a section of society which in their fag end of life can pay for the various facilities. The section of society which gets pension shall definitely come forward to avail of such a facility. The well to do rich business men can also join this section of society. Thus there is a dire need to establish a place where facilities like , besides boarding and lodging, medical aid, safety, recreation etc are made available on payment. PAY AND STAY HOSTEL is the right soloution. There exists a number of such hostels in our country where all the required facilities are available. Even the children shall be happy to see their old parents living a comfortable life in such a hostel. Our state people have to take an iniative in this regard.
Individuals, communities or institutions of civil society can join hands as parteners for establishing such a place. We Jammuites are blessed with Shree Mata Vaishno Devi shrine and there exists a board to look after its affairs. Shrine board has already established a University and recently a Super Speciality Hospital at Kakrayal. Shrine board can easily think of establishing a Pay And Stay Hostel for the senior citizens of the state. A humble beginning has already been made by B&N charitable Trust in their hospital . This arrangement at the hospital was not originally thought of and thus lacks many other parameters which are essential for a Pay and Stay Hostel. Corporate houses can come forward for such a project out of their Corporate Social Responsibility funds.
Senior citizens deserve a fair deal both at the hands of the GOVERNMENT as well as the CIVIL SOCIETY at the last days of their life. The civil society is going grey at a faster rate and it is high time that we think of WELFARE of SENIOR CITIZENS.
( The author is president of Association for Welfare of Senior citizens).