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Living and Growing Old with Dignity

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REFLECTIONS -By Dr Rajan Philips : Old age is an irreversible fact of life. However much we resort to desperate measures and pseudo-medical remedies, it is impossible to arrest the ravages of time. The seven ages of man with old age as the ‘finale’ before the ‘final exit’, as depicted by William Shakespeare in his play ‘must be lived through.

Obviously, wisdom lies in accepting the inevitable and learning to age gracefully but endeavouring to stay young at heart as long as possible. Such persons are revered by society for their indomitable spirit and capacity to serve society despite their fragile and ageing body.
The iconic figure of Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, the epitome of love and compassion, and Grandma Moses, the artist par excellence are a few remarkable images that appear before my mind.

The elderly can live with true dignity and grace as long as they are fully healthy, active and self reliant. But despite their great dreams they may often find themselves in a helpless state and be forced to depend on their children, the society and other care-givers around them.

This is where society and the younger population need to step in willingly. But, sadly, the modern generation, preoccupied with material prosperity in a highly competitive world finds no time or the inclination to provide the kind of care the elderly require and deserve.
It is to highlight this burning issue and create genuine awareness about the old that in 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day for the Elderly, and has been observed worldwide.

A distinct theme is chosen each year. “The Growing Opportunities and Challenges of Global Ageing” is the theme for 2011. It highlights the need to provide for the ‘independence, participation, care and self-fulfilment, and dignity of older persons’.

These noble objective assumes special significance for the simple reason that with each passing year the number of ‘older people ‘(those above 60) keeps swelling at a staggering rate. In fact our world is experiencing a virtual demographic revolution.
Today there are around 600 million such persons.

The total is set to double by 2025 and is likely to touch two billion by 2050. In simpler terms, one in every ten persons today is an elder. By 2050, this would be one in every five persons. The implications are far reaching. In this context, we must not forget that those who are elderly today were once young and productive and played a sterling role in sustaining and supporting their families and society.
They led a more Spartan and challenging life without enjoying the benefits and comforts of advanced technology and science that the younger generation now takes for granted.

Furthermore in many parts of the world the aged continue to contribute in new ways to uphold the social fabric. They pass on their experience and knowledge and take care of their grandchildren whenever possible. They are respected and their counselling generally valued in many tradition

It is only when severe illness or other adverse circumstances render them quite helpless that they reluctantly seek the assistance of their children or other care-givers. When that happens if they are looked upon as a liability or burden it is rather cruel.A sound value-based education and general awareness need to be created in the young minds so that they accept the care of elders as a privilege and moral responsibility.

The feeling of being loved by their children and dear ones is more vital than any kind of material support or arrangements for a comfortable stay in an old age

The Day helps us to acknowledging our debt to the elderly and renew our resolve to do all we can to keep them in good cheer and emotional well-being,


Dr.Rajan Philips is having Ph.D in English literature. he is a motivational speaker and freelance writer. Read more.)

Articles by Dr.Rajan Philips

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