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Spring in the step...

23 June, 2017

professional elder care in India
, about samarth

At 75, Rawat is entirely in love with life and exudes zesty enthusiasm that is difficult to match or even hold. He is a proud father of two daughters, who are married ~ one is settled abroad and the other is in Chennai. The energetic old man continues to embrace life with sheer love and zeal even after the demise of his wife years ago. Interestingly, in a bid to keep himself busy even after his retirement, he has voluntarily started working with Samarth community that caters to the emotional and physical needs of the elderly.

Detailing his daily routine, he said, "I begin my day at 5.30 in the morning and go for a walk every day. Then, after my regular puja (prayer), I have my breakfast. After that I head to the Samarth's centre in my car and spend 3-4 hours there. I like keeping myself busy, therefore I write for their magazine and online portal as I've a flair for writing and also interact with people of my age here.That gives me peace of mind."

Rawat's inimitable vigor is the secret of his happy life and he attempts to pass on his knowledge to the younger generation as well by teaching students of nearby schools in his spare time. Besides, he also loves driving. There are many such people in our society, who never cease to inspire younger generation and send out a strong message to embrace life with utmost reverence and exuberance.

People above the age of 60 years, when they usually retire, tend to make productive use of the spare time and live life happily. The fun fact is, life doesn't end at 60 ~ rather, it begins. The notion of what is "old" changes with time as we age. For those aged under 30, the word old is related to people of 60 years and above. Similarly, for those in the age bracket of 50-60 years, the concept of old doesn't begin until one is 75 years and above.

"I am very happy with my life after retirement. I do not have any deadlines to meet nor do I have to rush to office in the morning everyday in the crowded bus," said Devika Kumar (name changed), a Delhi resident.

"Life is quite peaceful now as I have plenty of time in hand to pursue my hobbies and interests leisurely. My daughter is working and I get a monthly pension, which is more than enough to take care of my expenses." On another note, she added, "Being old doesn't make you dependent on anyone, rather it makes you feel wiser and more confident. Although I have retired, I don't feel old yet."

Also, most of them are of the view that the society sidelines older people and fails to acknowledge their potential to contribute to society. L R Garg, secretary, Senior Citizens Council of Delhi, said, "I have retired as the CEO of a company and I had a very fruitful professional life. I believe that people should be given opportunities to make use of their potential even after retirement. They don't look for salary or high packages, just a conveyance would do. In my case, I've always been driven around by chauffeurs, therefore, I don't know driving." He added,

"Since I've had a busy life, I'd like to keep myself that way. I engage in social work, spend time with the elderly in this council and also render service to God."

Elaborating on this, Dr Samir Parikh, director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare, said post-retirement doesn't mean a sedentary life. He explained, "Rather, one can take up many activities or tasks that they always wanted to do, as now they would have ample time to invest. One can lead a very active life. There are various ways like these to utilize time productively, which by and large depends on each person's background, likes, motivation, interests and family-social background. There are no rules to it. One can interact with younger people; share one's knowledge and indulge in activities or tasks that would give them joy."

Opportunities and challenges

According to the United Nations, India has over 11 crore elderly in the country. Every day, over 11 lakh elderly get added to the count. There are different kinds of challenges and opportunities at every stage of life. The average life expectancy is increasing rapidly in India and, therefore, people have decades of active life even after retirement. This gives them the opportunity to leverage their years of expertise, training and impart their knowledge to the younger generation.

Goyal, 62, works as an accountant with the Samarth community and has set his hours in a bid to avoid a full-time workload. He contributes 3-4 hours on a daily basis and goes to work thrice a week. "I am not quite concerned about the money and I'm glad this job keeps me occupied. I have an accounts background and I try to pass on my knowledge of accounts to the youngsters, who come here volunteering. That gives me a sense of satisfaction. And, also the job keeps me active."

"Retired people don't look for means of livelihood, rather they focus on staying connected and using their time productively.Therefore, salary is not an issue. Also, they don't seek promotion or hikes, which helps them to stay out of office politics and render good quality work," said Gaurav Agarwal, chief operating officer, Samarth. "Start-ups are keenly hiring retired people as they help in maintaining discipline in the chaotic world of start-up. Also, young professionals expect high salary package, which is not a problem in the case of elderly.With their expertise, they help in staffing, supervision of operations and also induct youngsters."

On the contrary, speaking of challenges, the term "ageing" is stigmatised and is being stereotyped even in today's time. People, by and large, are of the view that old people are feeble, needy, unhappy and less useful than youngsters. The prejudice and stereotyping also largely impacts their confidence, motivation, mental health and physical health. Gaurav explained, "Many youngsters have this prejudice against the elderly. Even a lot of corporates don't hire them as they feel they aren't as dynamic as the youngsters and won't be able to keep pace with them."

However, people who have retired from a very senior level largely don't accept work at a lower level and rather take up consultancy jobs, he said. Dr Parikh explained that acceptance is the key to combat the issue of stereotyping. He said, "The most important thing is to accept. Accept the fact that at every stage of life there will be different kinds of challenges, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths. Don't fight them but accept them. One of the important aspects to consider is to be what you are rather than trying to be what you aren't. If you are a 70-year old then don't try to be like a 15-year old."

Nonetheless, he explained several ways through which the elderly can overcome the stigma attached to ageing:

Ensuring that one's social connectedness is best between family and friends· taking care of finances and being recognisant at that

Seeking medical or professional help as and when needed, which can alleviate stress (if any) to a large extent

Indulging in activities or tasks that give a sense of joy and pleasure.

Echoing similar sentiments, J R Gupta, president, Senior Citizens Council of Delhi and chairperson, Confederation of Senior Citizens Associations of Delhi (an umbrella body of 11 lakh senior citizens of Delhi), said, "There is a lot of stigma attached with ageing. Many a times, we come across people who are neglected by their children as they feel they are futile now as they have grown old. This mindset needs to be changed. Our organisation caters to the emotional and physical needs of the senior citizens and provides a platform for them to socialize."

In this context, Asheesh Gupta, co-founder of Samarth community, that caters to the emotional and physical needs of urban elderly, reiterated, "People these days have the means to stay independent, unlike 20 years ago. Longevity has gone up. Even after retirement they have 10-20 years of active life. Samarth helps them interact and engage with each other, receive information and expert advice on topics of health, wellness, home care, money-matters and so on. They also find post-retirement jobs and voluntary opportunities, receive training and awareness on relevant areas like computers, Internet and digital transactions, personal finance and health among others."

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