In Shakespeares As You Like It, the character Jaques begins a soliloquy thus: All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Or actors. These actors grow old playing six different parts and finally exit from the stage for good.
The stage preceding the seventh or the last scene of all is the most terrible, when having been an infant once, the actor wants infants and children around him to play with. The lover of much earlier days now wants to be loved. Having been soldier and judge once, he now depends on helping hands, and decisions, of others.
Aging being inevitable, everyone goes through these stages, provided death does notcome calling in the meantime.
Thus, irrespective of our stature, all of us come to a stage where we need others.
There are thousands around us who are playing this penultimate role on the stage of the world. For some the going is good, but for many it is a saga of suffering. They do not have those around them whom they long for. The do not find the supporting hands they need. The do not get the love they yearn for. They miss the people who would make them smile. Some live in isolation even while living with children. Some want to pass their final days at home, but cant.
Currently, around the globe, senior citizens are being deprived of their rights. They face acute problems on the psychological, financial and social fronts. The term Old Age Homes speaks volumes about our insensitivity. Multiplying old-age homes in India and Pakistan are a shocking depiction of the situation. Over seven hundred old-age homes are functioning in India, and there has been a 69 per cent increase in their occupancy over the past four years. Pakistan has more than 10 old age homes in a single province and is now being labeled as no country for old people.
In the pursuit of our mercenary goals, we ignore those who have laid the foundations of our lives, those who have taught us to walk and talk, those who have endured great discomfort for our wellbeing, and those who have mortgaged their present for our better future.
They pin their hopes on us to be the sources of support and comfort in their old age. But things go diametrically the opposite way when the time comes. This leads to psychological problems which the ageing fail to cope with.
Most of these senior citizens face financial problems. They are deprived of their basicrights even when living with their families. They dont get proper care and courtesy from family members, and are left to languish by themselves for the rest of their life. The very children for whom they toiled and bled find them a burden now. The very children for whom they spent their lifes earning are now unwilling to buy them much-needed medicine.
Socially also, they are marginalized, with people generally developing an aversion towards them. Their company is shunned If they try to share their experience or views with others, their advice is contemptuously dismissed. In many situations, they may just as well not even exist…
Mental disorders including poor memory, low tolerance, and incoherence, are very closely associated with old age, but instead of handling the problem with compassion and wisdom we exacerbate it by our hostile attitude. We lose patience if the aging individuals repeat their questions, and face ridicule and contempt if they fail to understand us.
There used to be a time when young people would offer their seats in a bus to elderly passengers, but nowadays even the visibly frail and ailing can be seen standing throughout the journey. They are seen waiting in queues for hours at public offices, with no one showing any consideration for their age and health.
Every religion emphasizes the rights of senior citizens, especially aging parents. There are religious personal laws for the protection of their rights like the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956. Likewise, Muslim personal law, and Christian and Parsi laws have clear provisions for providing maintenance to the elderly. This means that every religion has a special code on how to conduct ourselves with respect to senior citizens.
Laws like Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 have also been enacted for protection of the rights of the elderly, but is it not a shame that respect for parents and senior citizens is not evolving from our conscience but has to be laid down in law books. And how brazen have we become that we violate these laws as well, and the elderly are excluded and shut out of societies, communities, and families.
According to a recent report from the ministry of social welfare, only 100 people, mostly males, are living in four old-age homes in Jammu, and none in the Kashmir Valley. This is a very encouraging sign when compared to other states. But still, other problems senior citizens here face in the family and public spheres need to be resolved. We need to give the elderly their due importance Their rights must always borne in mind so that they live the life of honour and dignity they deserve. We must remember the golden rule: treat others as you would like them to treat you. If we desire of bliss in our old age, we must provide it to the elderly around us. Also by treating them with respect and affection, we can set a precedent for others and the generations to come.
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