Among the many problems/challenges faced by senior citizens, possibly the most prominent one relates to emotional issues. At the core level, it is the feeling of “Loss” that triggers this. Perceptual losses include those emanating from loss of job roles, financial stability, healthy body, self-esteem, pride of independence, among others. Faltering body strength adds to the problem.
We often see that the response system varies from person to person.
More stable and focused ones tend to adjust to the new reality, charter new avenues for themselves, create own hobbies, develop new passions and lead a re-generated life. They are the real ones who prove that aging is just a number and usher to lead a new life both physically and mentally.
But there are others who find it difficult to adjust and resist the change. Since the tide is against them, they either become very strong resistant thus being aggressive and irritant to all near them. Or they surrender and lead a life of compromise or become totally lonely while remaining in a community. We often see an elderly person not speaking at all despite repeated efforts. In severe cases, this leads to depression or even a person with suicidal tendencies.
Maintaining the balance
The above syndrome of depression progresses, if not taken care in time. Continuous and long isolation also leads to fear of death that causes further disturbance in mental balance. As per National Institute of Aging, USA, depression is not a normal process of aging; it is an aberration. The situations may sometimes go out of hand to either a case of clinical depression needing medical support or proper geriatric counselling support.
In India, unfortunately there is substantial lack of understanding of this serious emotional problems associated with a large number of elderly people. There are rarely hospitals even in a city like Mumbai with exclusive geriatric specializations. There is acute dearth of geriatric counsellors as well.
Senior citizen communities
It is in this context that senior citizen communities assume great importance. They provide several types of support. First, the peer company provides a type of comfort both in physical as well as emotional sense. Second, it is often seen that more rational elderly people in such a community take care of lonely people in true sense of the term. Third, these communities help the lonely people to keep themselves engaged. Fourth, these community activities / games bring back sense of humour and child-like agility among many elderly people. And finally, such communities help in restoring balance among elderly people through various games / activities / interaction among elderly people.
Thus, senior citizen communities play a very important role in tackling the emotional issues faced by elderly people. The government of various states have created senior citizen associations exclusively for this purpose. As movement of senior citizen is restricted, many of these associations are meant for local senior citizens. However, we often see these associations get driven by political agenda and bureaucratic tangle. Hence many communities in private sector have come up in recent times and they have been doing an exemplary job.
My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF) is one such new generation community for elderly people of Mumbai. Though hardly 2 years old, it has come a long way in assisting its 250 plus members to keep busy even during the pandemic time through intense and diverse on-line engagements. This keeps the members happy and engaged and to some extent, helps to keep the mental stress away.
Need of the hour is that the government recognizes and supports the initiative of such local senior citizen communities. It is also time that such communities come together and collaborate for the common goal of improving quality of lives of elderly people.
Dr A K Sen Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 9821128103.