Whenever there is any discussion in our society on preferred aging place, unfortunately old age homes are given last priority. Sadly, there is a social stigma attached to the same. While there is no doubt that Indian society continues to be closely knit compared to many other countries in the world, there are, sometimes, reasons not to stay with families. For example, by staying with family, there is a possibility of day-to-day conflicts. In another scenario, children may be staying abroad and parents want to continue to live.
Place of aging should be left to discretion of an elderly and society should accept ground realties that in western world, there is nothing called an extended family and the trend is slowly catching with our set up as well. Therefore, elderly persons have to look for alternative options of stay for purpose of aging.
In the above backdrop, old age homes offer an excellent option of aging.
Advantages of Staying at Old Age Homes:
There are several advantages of staying at old age home for a lonely elderly person or couple. These include:
- Old age home provides an ideal place of stay that is usually safe and offers elder friendly infrastructure like safe flooring, support system at washrooms, exclusive walking space, and so on.
- Usually, old age homes have an arrangement of a residential doctor or doctor at call so that regular medical check ups as well as emergency provisions are taken care of. Some of the new generation old age homes also have services of geriatric counselors who look after psychological / social issues faced by elderly like depression, anxiety, etc.
- Elderly persons particularly ladies will get immense relief from daily routines like making food arrangements, etc. and this is a big benefit.
- Seniors get lots of time as they wish for themselves for pursuing their own goals like learning a new language, equipping with new skills like dramatics / singing, or pursuing any other hobby.
- Old age homes provide an ideal ambience for community connection of like-minded people and new networking including friendships. This also provides platform for community celebrations like birthdays of members, marriage anniversaries, among others.
- Elderly are away from daily family interactions keeping them insulated from interfering with lives of younger generation and thus minimizing conflicts.
- It is an ideal place for those elderly who would like to live an independent life of their own volition. For these persons, old age homes offer a safe environment compared to their own home that might be unsafe as they grow old.
Each option will have its own pros and cons and so is with old age homes. First, one should be able to find a suitable old age home as per one’s choice, liking and affordability. Second, elderly should be in position to adjust to food habits as well life style of the new place. Third, many of the old age homes (barring few being set up for upper middle-class people) may not have the same benefits and space that a person was accustomed to and elders may face physical constrains. Fourth, sometimes it becomes difficult to adjust to new set of people at an older age and that might create friction and conflict. And finally, there are reported cases of elder abuse by administrators of some of the old age homes and elders need to be careful.
Choice of place of aging should be left to the elderly. By and large, there are three (3) options of stay for a senior citizen: family, own home, old agehome. Each option has its own pluses and minus. In the current scenario where, extended family concept is on wane, old age homes definitely provide an excellent alternative option for elderly to settle in old age and live happily amidst a community of the same / similar age group people. Going forward this will possibly be one of the best alternatives. What is expected of the government and private sector is to create various types of old age homes catering to needs of different strata of seniors. That will open up more options and choices. Elderly people should also come out of the stereotype that settling in old age homes is a social stigma. In days to come, old age homes are going to be the divine gift for elderly people to spend their 3rd and 4th stages of life.
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 15th January 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.