The very concept of an old age home is new to India. An old age home is usually the place, a home for those old people who have no one to look after them or those who have been thrown out of their homes by their children. The place is of course like home where the inmates get all the facilities for a routine living, like food, clothing, and shelter.
All these necessities are well looked after but, the much-needed love, and care of loved ones is of course sadly missing; for, how can outsiders provide solace? In these homes, it is very interesting and even touching to talk to people whether they are men or women.
At least in India till now, the old people staying away from the home, from their children, or left to themselves is not considered to be a very happy situation. This concept of separating the elders from the youngsters has been imported into India from the West.
However, for the West it may not be so heart rending for, there, it is their original life style that two generations never stay under one roof. But, in India where, for centuries, not only two but also even three generations have lived together, this new concept of nuclear families with the elders ousted, is just too touching to bear.
If, in any home we talk to the inmates, their story would be much the same- turmoil in the family, disgust against the old and, finally the removal of the elders from the family scene. It is the family atmosphere, and being among their flesh and blood that, most of the old people miss at the old age home.
They do get their daily needs fulfilled but, from where will the love of the dear ones come? The stories of almost all the old people are the same and very dismal.
It is the breakup of the system of the joint family and the introduction of a nuclear family that has brought this unhappy situation enter our society, and the old age homes have had to come up to cater to the needs of the elderly.
Besides this, since the women have started working out of homes, there is now, no one to look after the routine needs of the elders at home. Also with the women working out come their attitudes towards the elders, for, today, the working women do not take the elders as their duty but as useless appendages in the family.
This attitude of the women has also largely contributed to the removal of elders from families. With this backdrop, the necessity for old age homes was felt, and is being increasingly felt with the passage of time. The entire spectrum of circumstances has led to this unhappy need for old age homes.
No matter how well they are looked after in these homes, a single visit to an old age home brings depression to the onlooker as, no one - Yes, no one seems to be happy there.
It is very clear to all who visit an old age home that, all the inmates are there, not for the love of being away from home and independent but, because there is no better alternative left for them, once they are neglected and unwanted in their homes by their own children.
The only solace is that, they are getting their daily requirements of shelter and food - if not the bonds of love from the family.
Several days ago, I was able to visit Cherington Place with my friends, a nursing home located in Surrey. Our task was to keep the elderly company, so we made them cards and cookies, and prepared performances to keep them entertained (offering our time, treasures, and talent).
In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect. It was hard to imagine the difference we could make in their lives, since we were just a bunch of strangers giving them a visit. But now I know not to underestimate a stranger’s capacity to impact another’s life, because the effects can be tenfold.
I would’ve never predicted how amazing the effects of my visit to the nursing home would be. After greeting the elderly and speaking to them one-on-one, I was amazed by how appreciative they were for my visit. Perhaps they felt lonely or abandoned before, but now tears of joy glistened in their eyes. Maybe all people need is to know they are cared for, even by a simple stranger.
Moreover, I was stunned by the optimism they had for their future, even at old age. They were so youthful in spirit, regardless of their frail bodies. They were selfless enough to tell me to take care of myself, even if they were the ones in wheelchairs. It taught me that happiness can exist, even at old age, regardless of discouraging circumstances or diminishing health.
I learned that the rewards of volunteering is a two-way street. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll get back – whether it’s a new outlook or a warm smile – when you give your time to help another.
So volunteer. It truly is a beauty.
Got any similar experiences? Share them below!
By Celine Diaz
Posted on September 27, 2011