The life of an individual is divided into various stages. Starting from an infant, to becoming an adult and eventually turning into an old aged person. Ageing comes with many challenges. The loss of independence is one potential part of the aging process, as are diminished physical abilities and multiple age discriminations.
This is a life-cycle stage where the human being’s capacity to think, act, relate, and learn starts to falter and deteriorate. It breeds illnesses such as loss of memory, immobility, organ failure and poor vision. These are critical dysfunctions that could sideline a senior citizen to a lonely and a miserable life. There are many different kinds of problems and situations that they need to face as each day passes by. Living a life with such circumstances is very difficult as the person fears death.
Whenever we think of old age, what automatically comes to our mind are visions of loneliness, neglect, deterioration and illness. It lands an individual in a state of despair. This is in contrast with our adulthood where one is always busy caring and thinking for others, but reaching old age is ften characterised by isolation. Everyone near them seems busy and preoccupied with their own engagements. Little do they pay attention to their aged parents or grandparents. Out of every 10 elderly couples in India, more than 6 are forced by their children to leave their homes. With no place to go and all hopes lost, the elderly have to resort to old age homes, which do not guarantee first class treatment. Children find it hard to accept the fact that there are times when parents want to feel the love that they once shared with them. There are times when parents just want to relax and want their children to reciprocate their care. Old age is that stage of life where the person needs to be treated with utmost care and safety so as to avoid various diseases such as — DEPRESSION, which is the evil of all. Depression reduces an elderly person’s ability to rehabilitate. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the presence of depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from those illnesses. Depression also has been associated with increased risk of death following a heart attack. If we as mature adults avoid the old people and are unable to help them, then they will develop a mindset of loneliness and despair giving rise to negative thoughts in their mind resulting in a number of diseases.
The world’s population is ageing rapidly. Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s older adults is estimated to almost double from about 12% to 22%. In absolute terms, this is an expected increase from 900 million to 2 billion people over the age of 60. Older people face special physical and mental health challenges which need to be recognised. Over 20% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder (excluding headache disorders) and 6.6% of all disability among people over 60 years is attributed to mental and neurological disorders. These disorders in older people account for 17.4% of Years Lived with Disability. The most common mental and neurological disorders in this age group are dementia and depression, which affect approximately 5% and 7% of the world’s older population, respectively. Anxiety disorders affect 3.8% of the older population, substance use problems affect almost 1% and around a quarter of deaths from self-harm are among people aged 60 or above. Substance abuse problems among older people are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
Mental health problems are under-identified by health-care professionals and older people themselves, and the stigma surrounding these conditions makes people reluctant to seek help. The aging process generally results in changes and lower functioning in the brain, leading to problems like decreased intellectual function and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Many of the changes in the bodies and minds of older adults are due in part to a reduction in the size of the brain as well as loss of brain plasticity. Memory degenerates in old age, so older adults have a harder time remembering and attending to information. In general, an older person’s procedural memory tends to remain stable, while working memory declines.
Compared with younger people, elderly people show age‐related sleep changes, including an advanced sleep phase and decreased slow‐wave sleep, which results in fragmented sleep and early awakening. Sleep disorders are fairly common in older adults. This can lead to health concerns like increased risk for falling and daytime fatigue. Most studies conclude that behavioural therapies are preferable to medications, which can have unwanted side effects like nausea. Also, during late adulthood the skin continues to lose elasticity, reaction time slows further, muscle strength and mobility diminishes, hearing and vision declines, and the immune system weakens.
There are 81 million older people in India-11 lakh in Delhi itself. According to an estimate, nearly 40% of senior citizens living with their families are reportedly facing abuse of one kind or another, but only 1 in 6 cases actually comes to light. Every other day, we see cases of murders of senior citizens, children sending their parents to old age homes, children misbehaving or ill-treating parents and throwing them out of their houses, their property being forcefully taken over by over ambitious children. According to NGOs, there are incidences of elderly couples being forced to sell their houses. Some elderly people have also complained that in case of a property dispute they feel more helpless when their wives side with their children. Many of them suffer in silence as they fear humiliation or are too scared to speak up. According to them a phenomenon called ‘grand dumping’ is becoming common in urban areas these days as children are being increasingly intolerant of their parents’ health problems. After a certain age, health problems begin to crop up leading to losing control over one’s body, even not recognising own family owing to Alzheimer. At this point of time children start considering their parents as burden.
In a study led by Dr. Ron Acierno, researchers identified five major categories of elder abuse: 1) physical abuse, such as hitting or shaking, 2) sexual abuse, including rape and coerced nudity, 3) psychological or emotional abuse, such as verbal harassment or humiliation, 4) neglect or failure to provide adequate care, and 5) financial abuse or exploitation. Elder abuse occurs when a caretaker intentionally deprives an older person of care or harms the person in his or her charge. Caregivers may be family members, relatives, friends, health professionals, or employees of senior housing or nursing care.
Why do we tend to forget that the reason we are in this world is our parents, the reason we study is our parents, the reason we were alive all this while is our parents, the reason we survived all the diseases is our mother’s care. The hands who made us walk is our parents’. When we were kids, we never thought of it but we knew that no matter what, our parents will be by our side. But when it is our time to show our respect, to reciprocate the love, to show our gratitude, we back out. The truth is that even when they are counting their last breath, they are still thinking of us!
It is rightly said,” Growing old is like being increasingly penalised for a crime that you haven’t committed!”. Low and middle-income countries have been forced to be innovative and ingenious in finding low-cost and effective solutions for their growing elderly populations. Some of the initiatives taken by them include devoting an entire city in Chile to experimenting with elderly care, Increasing involvement of older people in democracy through old people’s councils in Brazil, training armies of volunteers in elderly care, as in several south-east Asian nations, establishing job creation schemes for older people as Finland and South Korea have both done. Old age is an inevitable phenomenon, no individual is responsible for. It’s just that we ought to make the best years of their life by spending good quality time with them and helping them in giving vent to their pent up thoughts and letting bad memories fade away.