Are You Retired But Not Tired?

not-tiredWhen you are over 70  ( unstoppable or not), old age and death never cease to be on your horizon. Your eyes drift to the obituary column involuntarily. Some put up a cheery facade and hide those thoughts. Others like me plan a book like ‘THE OUTHOUSE ON THE FIRST FLOOR – Coming of (Old)Age in India‘ only to abandon it as no one takes it seriously.
imagesThe first confrontation a working person has with old age is retirement.

Retirement is traumatic. When 59 years, 11 months and 29 days old, you are an earning member doing your duties diligently. The very next day you are considered useless. From a contributor to the economy, you become a human parasite, a burden on the society and on your own family.  In the USA  they retire in their sixties and in Japan only when they want, even if they are in their 90s.

The new government of India appears to be aware that most people are fit and healthy even at 60. It has raised the retirement age of doctors. Others may follow. Many may not remember that not long ago, it was 58 (that is the reason when public provident fund pensions start at 58 and not 60).

As increased awareness and better living conditions result in more 60-year-olds being healthy and fit to work, post-retirement jobs and activities are increasing. There is need, however, for specialised agencies to provide them employment according to their altered ability and requirement or social activities that make their vast experience and knowledge (if not wisdom) useful to the community.

Also needed is general awareness of what the problems of the aged are. Even if one did not do much while in service, one must be very active after retirement. Once you think you have laboured enough and want to relax (sit idle) ailments, imaginary or real, start and you become sick. So you must be active for your own health, if not for being useful and wanted.

Loneliness is  one of the major problems affecting the aged.

An analysis of a National Institute on Aging (of course in USA – would India ever set up one?) study report, by the Department of Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), found loneliness a major – often fatal – problem of the aged. It says that loneliness can be killing. It found that people who called themselves lonely  “had an adjusted risk ratio of 1:59 or a statistically significant 59 % greater risk of decline. For death, the hazard ratio was 1:45, or 45 % greater risk of death.”

Decline, medically defined, is the inability to perform daily activities such as upper extremity tasks, climbing stairs, walking etc. The impact of loneliness on an elderly patient is different from the effects of depression, which can occur at any age. While depression is linked with lack of enjoyment, energy and motivation, loneliness can be felt in people who are fully functional but feel empty or desolate, the study said.

And the most important and surprising part of the findings is that loneliness does not necessarily correlate with living alone. The study found that 43 per cent of surveyed older adults felt lonely, although only 18 per cent lived alone. You can be lonely in a crowd.

 

Many who cannot give quality time to parents clear their conscience by throwing bundles of currency notes at the aged but do not give them something more valuable – time. Money cannot buy love, affection or happiness. More and more modern couples are becoming aware of the need to give “quality time” with their children. But fewer extend the same awareness to the “second childhood” of the elders.

Though some who live with their dysfunctional families may be fatally lonely, those who live alone are more likely to be so. Cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad have thousands of couples, or just fathers or mothers, living alone as their sons or daughters work abroad.

An analysis of a National Institute on Aging (in USA – would India ever set up one?) study report, by the Department of Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), found loneliness a major – often fatal – problem of the aged. It says that loneliness can be killing. It found that people who identified themselves as lonely “had an adjusted risk ratio of 1:59 or a statistically significant 59%  greater risk of decline. For death, the hazard ratio was 1:45, or 45%  greater risk of death.”

Decline, medically defined, is ‘the inability to perform daily activities such as upper extremity tasks, climbing stairs, walking etc.’  The impact of loneliness on an elderly patient is different from the effects of depression, which can occur at any age. While depression is linked with lack of enjoyment, energy and motivation, loneliness can be felt in people who are fully functional but feel empty or desolate the study said.

And the most important and surprising part of the findings is that loneliness does not necessarily correlate with living alone. The study  found  that 43 per cent of surveyed older adults felt lonely, although only 18 per cent lived alone.

With intelligent  entrepreneurship coming up, it is realised that taking care of the aged can be a paying proposition. Many working abroad would be ready to pay well for such services as their parents are unable to adjust to Western social set up to live with them. Several corporate medical units are offering these services now.

NGOs like Helpage India, Dignity Foundation and  Nightingales  are doing commendable work, but more are needed. In US a taxi service specially for the aged, where the drivers would talk to the passengers and also assist them in tasks like marketing, proved popular. Such novel ideas can be replicated.

Senior Citizens’ Clubs and similar organisations are coming up in apartment houses where thousands live. Agencies that would use senior citizens in  activities like teaching the  underprivileged or storytelling,  or youngsters  visiting lonely aged persons and keeping track of their health or other needs, are also required.

There are more people today than ever before  who are retired but not tired.

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4 Comments

  1. I sometimes wondered how it is to work the whole life (especially as being employed somewhere) and then suddenly to be forced to stop. It must be traumatic in a way. On the other hand it can be a “wake-up call”, a sort of freeing experience… maybe the most important part of life, forcing us to face the illusionary emptiness (?)🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I won’t know how it pains but yes I can look around and feel the lonliness among seniors.

    The problem compounds when other members have no time and do not share anything common with them in terms of good, information and even value system. They have no time to even sit and have a cup of tea with seniors.

    I don’t have solutions but few of us friends are slowly working on a joint house type where we can have company and stay together……we can’t end the problem but we can fight it better.

    On personal front I understand and try to spend more time with parents and uncles and hope to reconnect with them.

    Like

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