In his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi this year, set before his fellow citizens a target to make our beloved country a developed nation in 2047, the centenary year of the Independence.
As if on cue, less than three months after the Prime Minister’s announcement, a new book, “India in 2047, Amazing rise of a Modern Nation”, published by Read Write India, has for the first time charted out the blueprint of how to achieve this goal.
With all sinews to that task, such achievements will be meaningless if the elderly feel neglected. There are millions of people in their thirties working relentlessly to make India a developed nation in the next two and a half decades who will themselves be senior citizens in 2047. The relatively young country of today would turn into a nation of primarily senior citizens by 2047. The makers of developed India will be elderly by then. So, by investing in an elder-friendly India now, the youngsters will be investing in their selves.
There is a need to prepare our younger generation for the challenges of elder care. It is quite ironic that in a country where we touch the feet of elders, where the concept of Guru Dakshina is prominent, the psychological care of senior citizens is not a priority
While we strive to become a developed nation, there is a simultaneous need to prepare our younger generation for the challenges of elder care. It is quite ironic that in a country where we touch the feet of elders, where the concept of Guru Dakshina is prominent, the psychological care of senior citizens is not a priority.
Our young nation is getting old day by day. India has over 104 million elders comprising 8.6 per cent of the population, aged over 60, where females outnumber males, according to the last census in 2011. India has undergone a dramatic demographic transition in the past 50 years, tripling the elder count. This percentage is estimated to rise to 11.6 per cent of the population, or 159 million or almost 16 crores, by 2025, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Currently, most geriatric OPD services are available at tertiary care hospitals but are readily available in urban areas. Old care facilities offered by the government- day-care centres, old-age residential homes, counselling and recreational facilities are a delicacy for rural India, not readily accessible.
The need of the hour is to make geriatric healthcare services part of the primary healthcare services to reach out to rural populations.
Presently, our country’s lack of geriatrics specialists is a humongous cause of concern. There is no specialised course in geriatrics at most medical colleges in the country. Geriatrics is a low-profile speciality that lacks the shimmer of academia and is the least favourite among medical students. Consequently, geriatricians are a rare breed in the medical milieu of India. We need to address this issue without delay. We must come together at social, corporate, and government levels to understand and find a solution to the various problems concerning the elderly. The effort should begin as an individual social responsibility and create a movement.
The onus of giving sufficient time to older people lies with the younger generation by calibrating the jet set lifestyle as part of its moral duty.
Presently, India has around 10.4 per cent of its total population under the category of old or senior citizens above 60 years of age. In a country with a sizable population of senior citizens, the National Education Policy that sets the agenda for the education sector in the next 20 years has an important catalytic role to play.
While we prepare to become a developed nation in the next 25 years, we also at the same time need to prepare our next generation to be sympathetic and caring towards the issues and problems of the senior citizens. Our approach towards economic development needs to be holistic and balanced. There lies the importance of Elder Care as a subject which would help us realise the impact of selfless acts, expressing gratitude and earning blessings.
While we prepare to become a developed nation in the next 25 years, we also at the same time need to prepare our next generation to be sympathetic and caring towards the issues and problems of the senior citizens
We need to adopt a holistic approach to address the burning problems of old age-related problems, including mental health issues. Loneliness is the most crucial issue faced by seniors in our society.
William Shakespeare’s famous line from his play, Twelfth Night, is worth recalling as we throw light on music therapy to combat the disorder of being old and infirm, “If music is the food of love, then play on.” It is not without reason that the piano music of Mozart, Beethoven & Chopin and Rig Vedic hymns in classical tunes are played to keep the elders mentally alert.
Innovative experiments are executed in the field of Elder Care. The basic idea is to take care of old aged people through cognitive therapy. “For the elderly, music is a powerful and therapeutic tool,” said Sunita Bhuyan, a Mumbai-based violin maestro.
Bhuyan said music helps the elders better focus on and stimulates their brain’s creative process. This results in improved brain health or ‘cognitive preservation’. This impacts their overall well-being and longevity, arrests Alzheimer and stabilises motor movements and other age-related syndromes, she said.
As people turn into senior citizens, some degenerative challenges are bound to surface. These degenerative challenges are Dementia, Parkinson, Alzheimer, Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis. Another common type of challenge older people face is related to electrolyte imbalance. It causes sodium-potassium imbalance leading to hallucination. Only the blessed or lucky persons escape these challenges as they grow old.
“As soon as we relate to a melody or piece of music, our mind sends signals to different parts of our body via the nervous system and starts producing the feel-good hormones called endomorphins,” said Bhuyan, a practitioner of well-being and creativity through music. The hormones regenerate damaged and tired cells. The time has come to explore the inherent strength of music therapy by making it an integral part of the Elder Care movement in India.
Focus on moral education
The New Education Policy (NEP) has given top priority to impart moral education for the holistic personality development of a student who will be a responsible citizen in the future or, for that matter, when the country celebrates the 100th Year of Independence in 2047.
We, who are middle-aged, need to make our younger generation aware of the problems of the elders so that they develop the right kind of attitude towards the issues and challenges of elder care in India.