What is the point of a longer life, if one is lonely? With the healthy life expectancy not increasing, this basic human instinct gets Krishna Kumari thinking
- Dec 26 2021, 00:37 ist
- updated: Dec 26 2021, 00:45 ist
The life expectancy of Indian women is more than that of the Indian male, as per the World Health Statistics report published this year. The article says life expectancy has increased over the last few decades, and Indian women live longer than men. Apparently, the healthy life expectancy has not increased.
Does this mean we have more homes with sick grandmothers whose husbands have passed away? I wish the report talked about the mental state of these women who lived longer. Examining the lives of these grandmothers is a revelation in itself, in terms of the sheer range of changes they have seen in their lifetime. Apart from that, their adaptability is regularly tested, even at an old age. They get plucked out of their environment into a new place, to stay with their children’s families. This leads to complete isolation from the social environment they are used to.
Add to this the exposure to lifestyles they are not familiar with, including the food they cannot recognise or adapt easily to. If the movement is from a village to an urban setting, this becomes even more pronounced. They may not be able to understand their grandchildren’s language or the general busyness of the family members. They may be shocked by this pandemic induced scenario of people being busy with devices all the time, either for work or leisure and the absence of any demarcation between one’s work life and family life.
The surprising element is that financial status may have no correlation to the confusions and challenges of daily life. Being financially independent at a late stage in life may not buy them any kind of freedom or perks one normally associates with at an early stage in life. It gives them a sense of security, nevertheless. They experience loneliness of a different kind, even if they are lucky to be living with their family. Their idea of who is family, who is one’s own and who isn’t gets all
muddled up. They realise their idea of privacy is completely different from what their own grownup children believe in, leave alone their grandchildren. What could be the answer to this?
The answer was loud and clear when I happened to spend a few days at a senior citizen home, visiting with my friend and her family. It was obvious the residents came from well to do families and most of them had chosen to live there, driven by the practical advantages of living in a community. But then, if anyone had a visitor, they were all there to talk to them, to find out about the life outside, begging the children to play a board game or the other. Yes, all they wanted was to interact with different age groups, to feel included. Are we ready to understand this basic human instinct, so that the elderly don’t feel lonely in our midst? In today’s world, when we are proudly stating how busy we are, the mirror on the wall could potentially show our own image a decade or two later, thirsting for this human connection.
(The author is the host of a podcast that examines challenges faced by today’s Indian women & proposes actionable strategies set in the