- Professor Dr. ABM Abdullah*
As per Resolution of the UNO, 1990 on 1st October last International Day of Older Persons has been observed. The theme of the Day this year is ‘The Journey to Age Equality’. In the words of the United Nations organization, we have been able to add extra years with our life but failed to add life with the extra years. Disparity to the old people is an everyday relentless challenge. In the different field of work, health and medical treatment, social service facilities, mass media, recreation, economic, political, policy determination and family and State life the old people fall victim to disparity off and on. At the last part of life many of them take shelter now-a-days in the old-home or residential house for the old people. Some of them perhaps go to the old-home of his own decision for staying there independently and some others may accept the fate under compulsion. The idea of old-home originated in the Western World. All these old-homes are direct outcome of the change in individualistic ‘modern’ dynamic way of life and the gradual erosion of the joint family based social system from the beginning of the last century. In one hand in the Western world the extensive profit-hankering capitalist system wants to keep unproductive population outside the basic structure and on the other hand intends to accomplish the liabilities of social justice based security system in an easy manner. With it there is strong desire for individual freedom. So, as a pleasure shelter of the last part of life the old-home is a nice normal system to them. And this system is now a part of their culture. When the age of the child crosses 18 years he/she starts his/her independent activities and struggle for building up own career by leaving the family of parents. Again, some of the old people after the end of long working career want to live independently in retired life in their own way in passing the last days; they don’t want to be a burden to their children. So some of them stay lonely for themselves and some others like to pass time with equally old residents in the old home. To many of them staying in the old-home is a normal consequence in last part of life like that of going to school at the beginning of life and hence they remain prepared for the process. Now-a days in our country also such homes are being built for the old people. But what in the West are normal factors of living their realities are different in our country. Here the importance of family is greater than an individual as yet. Although the joint family system is not found as before, the parents are treated as being included in one’s own family. Here the value of the peace of mutual nearness is very much higher than individual pleasure. So this is not expected that whenever a son or a daughter get self dependent would live singly by leaving the parents or keeping the parents separate he/she would stay separate. Here as the child gets adult the responsibility of the parents does not finish, so also if the parents get old and incapable to work, the social responsibility of taking care of them falls on the offspring. So the old-home of the West was desired to be absent in our living practice. But with the passing of time in the real perspective the opposite is being noticed. Like that of the West as our living preoccupation has increased, so a good number of old-homes has been build up. Although compared to the developed world there is a social system a much more family bound-rich social system, it is a matter of anxiety that old-homes are being built this way here. It is true that the senior people of our country did not lead their life in a boundless manner being indifferent to the children as that of western parents. Then why they have to face such a situation?
Old-home is not a part of culture in our country rather a certain necessity and expression mostly of the decay of value judgment. In our country it is not that the persons who stay in old-homes reside here voluntarily in most cases. Many of them getting negligence, uncarefulness, ignorance, ignominy, psychological oppression, even sometimes being the victim of ill-treatment and being compelled to leave from the own fruits of perseverance and struggle of entire life from their children take shelter in these old-homes for at least a little honorable and peaceful life. Those who are old today, they once invested all time, resources for the children; they kept nothing for themselves. In old life they get even not a very small part from the children. Sometimes it is seen that the son or daughter faces hardship to manage the expenses of his/her own family and hence feels the parents as a burden. For passing the life in a bit comfortable manner himself with spouse and children make accommodation of the old parents in an old-home. Again it is noticed that the descendant has no scarcity of money but does not feel keeping the parents with him/her or feels them as burden. He/she thinks ‘they are old man-woman, what the old haggard understand’. So the son/daughter himself/herself sends them to the old-home or make ill-behavior that creates a situation in order that the parents go away from their dear family. Some person even says that although he/she has no want of money he/she has want of time; he/she has no sufficient time to look after the parents or to speak with them. So it is better for the father or mother to spend time with others in an old-home than to stay lonely. It is, as it were, release from liability once they can be sent to the old-home. In this way the parents are driven on different pleas. Many named-famed intelligentsia, artists, litterateurs, journalist, teachers, service-holders who once were the possessor of highly chequered life become the victim of deprivation in old life by their own progeny and get compelled to be permanent resident of an old-home. Many children or relatives don’t take any information about them. They don’t come to see the parents, even don’t send any necessary money or materials. They don’t feel the necessity of taking the parents to home even during d Festival or any other Celebration/function. Even it is heard that many persons don’t go to see their father or mother at the death bed or after death for the last time. The old-home authority only takes necessary arrangement for burying the dead body accomplishing the funeral ceremony whereas his/her dear descendants take no information about the father/mother. It is not possible to deny that for many persons the old-home is really a highly necessary alternative. There are some elderly people who have no issue even have no near relations with whom he/she may pass the last days of life. Again there may be some old men who have lineage having no financial solvency to provide living expenses to the parents with whom he/she can pass the last days. Thinking that their living may be a bit better perhaps the parents are sent to the old-home by placing the stone on the bossom. The children of some persons stay outside the country; due to their employment they permanently reside there. The parents can’t be taken outside and moreover they also don’t want to live a foreign land. As a result although their offspring can send money, it is not possible for them to give time to their parents. Moreover there are some old people who are apt to remain independent-minded even at the last margin of life; they think it as a kind of burden to remain dependent on the son/daughter, so they voluntarily go to the old-home which is a descent system for them. These old-homes make arrangement of facilities for enjoyment of the free time of the last days of life by leaving out the anxiety of residence-food. The persons who stay here build up a new family being together all. The time passes nicely, playfully through gossiping, recollection of memories, etc. with persons of equal age. Moreover, as per necessity they, meet the own family also, pass joyful time on different festive occasions with the sons/daughters, grandsons-granddaughters.
In the perspective of reality if judged, we see that the old-home is a last resort to the neglected old people. The proper acknowledgment to their contribution of entire life, honor of the last time and security are provided in these old-homes. Here they can pass the rest of their days honorably without anxiety in pleasant mood. There are facilities of medical treatment also in many old-homes if needed. But question arises in the midst of all achievements/receipts: have they received mental peace? Do the faces of their sons/daughters and grandchildren not at in the screen of their mind? Actually what can’t be found here is the company of the own family. In old life people desire to live together with the sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters and with them only want to share the pleasures of life. After passing busy working period in the retired life this is their only pleasure. It may be said that man waits for this time throughout his whole life. In the old-home shelter can be had, companions-friends are found, recreation is available but this highly desired pleasure of the last part of life can’t be achieved. And hence they become emotional in this time from strong mental pain and heavy heart. Those who send the parents to the old-home just being undone against will their case is different. But those persons despite having sufficient wealth and time-opportunities of their own forget their parents only by negligence and ignorance sending them to the old-home and don’t feel the necessity of keeping information-news, they should remember that this sort of time would also come to their life. The parents who once put the morsel of food in the mouth of the children without themselves eating, those who have no time to know how and where they are today, their own offspring would perhaps behave with them one day in the same way. When in different festivities, on d day or worship occasions they don’t have the sons/daughters by their side, even a telephone is not received, many old men shed tears in silence staying in the old-home and pass a long breath. Even the parents by cursing the lineage desire that the behavior that was meted out to him by his child should be reciprocated by their offspring also in future. Now time has come to conecive. The matter that we make disparity to the old/senior people and this should not be allowed to go. Those who are young today, would one day become old and this fate would also come for them- thinking this truth it is necessary that we take care of the old parents. They have the right to get our love. It is to be kept in mind that the old group of people is our teachers and guide. For ensuring their social respect and security including all facilities we all need to be sincere.E
- Former UGC Professor, Department of Medicine
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and
Personal Physician of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.