Old-age homesWith the fragmentation of the joint family into nuclearunits, respect for the elderly people has eroded
Our lifestyle has undergone dramatic changes over the previous decades with different cultures influencing one another. Today, western culture is influential among the new generation seeking an independent life without the burden of having to look after their old parents. In Nepal, old age was never a problem. Elderly people were venerated and their abuse was considered a Western problem. Old-age homes were alien concepts. Now, times have changed and older people are treated more like a liability.
With the fragmentation of the joint family into nuclear units, respect for the elderly people has eroded. Parents are now seen as a burden by their children. The breakup of the joint family system and introduction of the nuclear family has created this unhappy situation, and the elderly are bearing the brunt of this changed scenario. The aged are spending their twilight years in isolation and misery while old-age homes are growing in the country to cater to the needs of the elderly.
The sole motivation these days seems to be making money, with both spouses opting to go out of the house and earn. As a result, the old parents are left behind with no one to take care of them. I am not trying to imply that people should stop earning, but they do need to try to balance their professional and personal lives. Despite great sacrifices made by the parents for their beloved children, old-age homes are becoming the unfortunate destination for many old people.
In many aspects, old age is quite similar to childhood. Like a child dependent on their parents, old people are dependent on their children, for they are no longer physically, mentally and economically fit. Yet it is unbelievable that children conveniently leave their parents in such homes as a way of shirking responsibility, especially in a culture where children are seen as a support for old age.
Due to increasingly busy lives, people are less able to spend quality time with their family. Little time is spared for others, particularly for the elderly parents. It can be said that these situations arise due to the increasing influence of other cultures. We have become more obsessed with the materialistic world, and are slowly losing our morality.
Old-age homes may not be a big deal in the West, as the children leave the nest early. However, considering that many generations have lived under the same roof together in Nepal, it is disheartening to see the elders being forced out under the concept of nuclear family. People need to realise that we should take good care of our old parents, for everyone will go through this phase one day.
Old-age homes are not the solution to the problems confronting the elderly, as they are denied the love and affection of their offspring while residing in such homes. Leading unhappy lives, many do not bother to take care of themselves. For some, the only prayer to god is for their miserable lives to end as an escape from their isolation and depression.
Placing old parents in old-age homes should be a secondary option, not the primary one. Besides, old-age homes should be an option only to those without anyone to look after them. With a family-like atmosphere, these homes can provide a sense of security and friendship. Residents can share their joys and sorrows with each other. People without children do not have to die alone and destitute as some old-age homes can cater to the needs of old people quite well.
Our culture does not really approve of sending the aged to old-age homes for the sake of freedom. Even though old parents are not physically active, the respect and honour that we give them should be maintained. They act as decision makers in every important event occurring within the family. Such is the role of old parents in Nepali society.
Most parents leave no stone unturned to take good care of their children. Why then should the children think of placing their parents in old-age homes? They should also take good care of their parents who made big sacrifices during their prime age. The new generation should not forget their values by being unduly influenced by western culture.
Pant is head of Corporate Affairs and Business Planning Officer at Prabhu Bank, Kathmandu