India Greying (Growing old in India)
I travelled to Bangalore and Kerala last week. It also meant that I hopped from one home to another meeting old people in those two places because I was accompanying my ageing father who wanted to say Hi to friends and it gave me some ringside view of conversations and things. Here are few of my observations.
My father. He is 78 and lives alone in our home in Bangalore. But he is not really alone, I have a sister who lives close by and takes care of a few of his needs. He likes to be independent and if I was him, I would prefer that too.
We had to go and meet his friends who are all around the same age and most of them live alone. Big homes (by Bombay standards) and one or two old people living there with a few rooms locked (so that you don't have to clean).
Observation no 1: Old people want to be independent but they also want people around them. Tip: If they say they want to be alone, stay close but give them independence. A lot like what you would do with people in their teens (I guess, because I don’t have experience with being with teens and I hardly remember those days).
I have this thought and it is about how we are always preparing for old age by developing habits that will help us when we are old. Our preparations seem to begin when you hit middle age. We develop routines that will help us remember things when memory fails us one day in the future. That future is probably closer than we expect. Some people prefer exercises and dietary habits that prepare our body for the worst-case scenario.
If you observe what you do, you will see patterns developing that will slowly claim most part of your life when you are fully grey. And those habits reflect our interests in our prime.
I met two pharmacists. One who goes through meticulously through medicine and dosages even though it someone else who keeps it for him. It’s a habit. Another self-medicates and is probably harming himself but again, it is a habit and a dangerous one. Another person I met counts coins and arranges them. Do you see a lot of old people in banks and other financial companies in conversation in excess of what is needed? That’s probably a habit of people who had it rough when I came to money in the last century when money and saving was a very uphill task in India. That’s my theory and it could be false.
Social Networks and life in a health chat room.
This is a medical shop in the Sanjaynagar locality of Bangalore. It has a bench facing the counter and it was used by seniors to sit and chat. When I was there, they were discussing politics with the young pharmacist pitching in with view from the younger side of the generation gap.
But when seniors meet after a long time, their main point of discussion is health and not always politics. They are all experts in the latest trends and treatments which are mainstream as well as alternative. There is also a big amount of bragging. If there is a senior with children in America or another place and the seniors have had the bad luck of visiting a doctor or hospital there, the comparisons begin and long stories about their experiences. If you are young, it can be very boring but do behave like you show interest. One day, sooner than you think, you will be that storyteller, especially if you are male.
Religion also plays a very important role in the life of seniors. Religion or activities related to religion enable people to connect and be part of society. This however, needs a detailed study and set of images.
I will leave you with a picture of a single fish in a half filled aquarium. I found it in a large house with several bedrooms and home to just one retired widower with children on the other side of the world.
Cost of living.
I have to admit that the people I met were all well-off by Indian standards and got the best healthcare. That would mean that they have saved enough or had a pension to take care of their needs. What if you are old and you are pauper?