January 23, 2021
“Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success.” – Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher and politician.
Francis Bacon also makes a compensatory statement: “Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”
“Just as old age is creeping on apace,
And clouds come o’er the sunset of our day,
They kindly leave us, though not quite alone,
But in good company – the gout or stone.
-Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), English poet and politician.
“For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”
- Henry Wardsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), American poet and educator.
Writers of prose and poetry had their say on old age down the ages. Now we have national surveys on how the old are treated by their progeny.
Karnataka’s senior citizens are among the worst victims of ill-treatment in India, according to the country’s first nation-wide survey to map multiple health, social and economic issues that the elderly population face. It comes second with 10%, after Bihar (12%), followed by West Bengal (8%) and Uttar Pradesh (6%).
On a national scale 14% of India’s senior citizens experience ill treatment frequently whereas more than half of them have such experience once in every two months, according to India’s first longitudinal ageing study in which more than 72,000 individuals with the age of 45 and above are being tracked since 2014.
The study shows 75% of the elderly suffer from one or the other chronic disease, 40% have one or the other disability and 20% have issues related to mental health. Also, nearly 40% have lung disease, one in five need help for activities of daily living and one in 10 have sleep problems.
In Karnataka half of the older adults with the age of 45 years and above have restrictive lung diseases. Among the 60 plus population in Karnataka, close to 10% have chronic lung disease. Both are among the highest in the country. Nearly one-third of the 60 plus individuals in Karnataka have visual and hearing impairment, which is the highest in the country and double than the national average of 15%.
The first set of results from the study also show that Karnataka senior citizens overwhelmingly depend largely on private healthcare facilities and shell out India’s highest amount of out of pocket expenditure (Rs 1,25,825) among all the states. More than 60% senior citizens in Karnataka face multiple functional limitations in living in a community and almost 40% need assistance. The biggest problem they experience is getting around in an unfamiliar place and the problem is far more acute among women.
Nearly one in five have problems in managing activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming, personal hygiene, changing their positions from sitting to standing and movement on the bed. Difficulty in using the toilet facility is the most common such limitation faced by the elderly.
Karnataka prides itself as a progressive state. These statistics project a poor image of the State. More than the image, it is the human face of the State that is reflected in the above survey. Beyond the image of the state are the individual sufferings of senior citizens in families.
How are we going to respond and rectify the situation so that our parents and grandparents experience our concern and love and care for them?
It is not just Karnataka’s problem. It has deep roots in our history overall. A son was torturing his old father constantly to get out of the house and get lost and would often drag him out of the house, with a cane in hand, down the lane leading to the main road. One day he dragged his father to the edge of the main road when the father pleaded: “Please stop, my son. Even I didn’t drag my father beyond our lane”.
In the home, the son’s son was fashioning a block of wood into a food receptacle. When asked by his mother what he was doing, he said: “This is for my daddy to have his food when he grows old!”
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response, in the format given below (Pl scroll down) is welcome.
NORMALLY I USE THIS SPACE FOR A LIGHT ‘COCK-TALE’. BUT, THIS TIME I COULDN’T RESIST THE USE OF THE FOLLOWING MEDIA REPORT AS UNDER:
TALE OF SHAME - 80-YEAR-OLD MAN LOCKED UP BY SON SUSPECTED TO HAVE DIED OF STARVATION (Jan 21, 2021)
Doctors suspect the death of an elderly man in Mundakayam, Kerala (– God’s own country!) to have been caused by long-time starvation. 80-year-old Podiyan and his aged wife Ammini lived with their younger son Reji and his wife Jhansi. According to neighbours, Reji locked up his aged parents whole day without food or water for months.
When Asha workers arrived on a tip-off, both were transported to the hospital where Podiyan died shortly after. Primary post-mortem showed unusual shrinkage of internal organs, a condition when the body is deprived of food and water for an extended period. Also there was no indication of any food having passed down the throat in a long time, said doctors. To affirm these findings, the internal organs have been sent for forensic chemical tests which will tell whether Podiyan’s death indeed occurred from long-time starvation.
Both Podian and Ammni were daily wage workers who ran the house on their money until they were too old and unwell to work anymore. Reji and his wife Jhansi are daily wagers too and would leave for work each day locking the aged couple allegedly without food or water. Unable to withstand the cruelty meted out to her husband, Ammini reportedly lost her mental balance. She is now being treated at Kottayam Medical College.