There have been lots of anecdotal sayings that gradual withering of extended family system has had an adverse impact on the elderly. It has always been assumed that family is the sole place an elderly should spend time and companionship of children and grandchildren can alone bring all the bliss and happiness on elderly. Things are slightly different now. Many elders do prefer to stay alone. They may stay in proximity with the children but not with them. They feel independent and self-motivated by staying alone.
Where Lies the Truth:
Only an empirical evidence-based study can reveal the truth. Our interactions with a number of seniors (both who are staying separately as well as with children) reveal that the place of stay actually does not matter. While there are several seniors who live with children are happy and relaxed as they feel a “sense of safety” by staying with them, there are others who feel that they are being used or exploited by children. They also feel that they lose their right of independence of action and they need to depend on children for everything. Children also, sometimes, find it inconvenient to keep the elders with them as age progresses. Thus, quality of relationship is always not cozy when elders stay with children.
Similar is the case with elders who are staying alone. Many of them feel lonely &depressed to be away from children and miss them; there are others who feel happy to be away as that gives them a sense of independence and choice of living their own life.
There are still others who would prefer to stay near and not with children. This brings the best of the both worlds: sense of comfort but living an independent life at the same time.
Happiness is by Choice:
The above tells the truth of life. Elders need to age happily, lead a nappy and dignified life. How & where they feel happy should be left to their choice.
If they feel happy to be with family, they must be accepted with a great sense of duty as well as affection & love. Children must show due respect to elders while giving them adequate space to do what they would like to. At the same time, elders must also not interfere in lives of their children. They should assume the role of “Mentors” and allow next generation to grow by themselves taking their own decisions. They should even refrain from giving opinions or advice unless solicited. This mutual respect and understanding can create an ambience of long-lasting happiness and good for both stakeholders. If either of the two parties does not behave with maturity, there can a problem. Small problems always do happen in families; word of caution is that ruptures should not take place.
There may be other cases where elders by choice would love to lead an independent life. They may prefer to stay in a separate house or even go in for an elder’s home. Children must give due respect to the choice of their parents and allow them to do what they like. Rather they should take it with a positive spirit and be with their parents whenever time permits. They may prefer to spend some time together on regular basis if all of them are at the same station; or otherwise, children can come and stay with their parents as much as possible. Parents can also periodically visit their children. Remaining connected is the key to relationship. In today’s context, elders and children can always remain connected on a constant basis through digital mode of communication.
It really does not matter the location or place where the elders chose to spend their post-active 3rd or 4th life. This is truer till the time they are physically and mentally active. The objective of it all is to enable the elders to lead a happy aging. The choice should, therefore, be left to elders where and what they would like to do. Like the family members, elders should also be flexible in their approach. What is needed is a spirit of collaboration and interdependent attitude of existence between elders and next generation. Whether they stay together or not, they should remain connected, meet & enjoy so that sweet memories linger for future. Studies also show that it is “not staying together” that is important; what is crucial is “sweetness of relationship between generations”. Research also shows that better the relationship, more qualitative has been the life of elders and consequently higher has been their longevity.