There has been dramatic transformation in all facets of life during last couple of decades. Changes have been all pervading including life styles, structure of families, modes of communication, means of living, financial transaction modes and many others. What was relevant about two decades ago is not applicable anymore in today’s world. And therefore, it calls for widespread adaptability by all to the new and evolving life and ways of living.
Need for Change for Elderly
Elders are possibly the worst affected by this wind of change. They were born and brought up in different set up altogether; they grew and spent their professional life in a totally dissimilar climate. What they now encounter is a unique world with altered sets of aspirations, ambience, needed skill sets and competencies. They thus need to migrate to ethos of new world order to survive and age happily.
Four Areas where They Need to Change with Time:
- From Zone of Dependence to Independence: In earlier days, there was a concept of unitary family where elders used to depend on support systems of younger generation for their physical and other needs. The younger people, by and large, used to take care of all aspects of living of elders and hence life for elderly used to be comfortable. With breakdown of the unitary family system, more and more seniors are forced to stay alone or in senior homes where they need to take care of their daily living as well as other medical emergencies. This move from dependent zone (on children) to one of independence where they are expected to look after themselves is difficult but has to be accepted as reality of changing times.
- From Direct Supervision to Mentoring: This is another area where there has been a dramatic change in family role alignment. In sixties / seventies, we were brought out in a climate where grandparents used to be heads of families with their word being last. Things have evolved over period of time; the younger people no longer want any interference in their lives from seniors. They aspire to lead an independent life being controller of their own destiny. Any dictate from elders is considered as an interference. Seniors need to appreciate the changing reality and should migrate from being decision makers to mentors. In this new role, they should help younger generations to grow and take their own decisions related to their personal as well as professional lives. This migration from role of direct decision takers to mentors / influencers is imperative and it requires complete change in mindset of elders.
- From Idle Life to Active Life: In earlier times, usually all the physical activities related to family used to be carried out by younger people and thus elders had not much to do. Barring exceptions, elders usually used to lead an idle and close-door life in comfort of their homes and family members. Things have since changed. Since many elders now live alone, they need to remain active not only to take care of their physical / financial necessities but also to spend time fruitfully. There is thus a need to find new purpose of life (Ikigai) to engage meaningfully so that the 3rd / 4th age becomes purposeful. We see an increasing number of seniors engaged in community service, being members of various clubs, and participating in multifarious activities to keep them busy. Gone are the days of remaining idle or spending passive time; it is now time to lead an active and meaningful life that will facilitate happy aging.
- From Physical to Digital: This is inarguably the biggest change. Two decades ago, everything was manual / physical: meetings, financial transactions, communication and all other human transactions. With rapid growth of technology, everything has now turned into a digital mode. Human interfaces are through virtual mode like zoom etc., financial transactions are through digital modes, interactions through WhatsApp and other mobile technologies. Basic knowledge of mobile apps and technological transformations is now imperative, if one has to take up any activity. Even in entertainment world one has to be savvy with platforms like Netflix. Things are changing very fast and elders need to run even faster because of their relatively lesser adaptability to technology in terms of propensity and ability. This is the single biggest challenge before elders in the present context.
Change is way of life and only constant in the world. As times and contours of life are fast shifting, elders also need to change. That is the only way they can survive and age happily. They should also be ready for reverse mentoring from younger generation as they can learn many tricks of leading Iife in the current digitized world from them. It is time to collaborate and co-exist happily: elder have pools of wisdom from where they can share their knowledge and new generations can teach new life technologies to the senior compatriots. Life can then become a pleasing experience for both.
Dr A K Sen Gupta is the Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). This article has been published in Free Press Journal (FPJ) on 19th February 2022, where he is a regular contributor. Dr Sen Gupta was the Director of S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai and Director & Mentor at SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai. He was a World Bank Consultant and instrumental in setting up National Banking College in Ghana, Africa and Professor at National Institute of Bank Management, Pune.