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Don’t be afraid of old age!

October 22, 2009

No one likes to be thought of as an “old” man or “old” woman. No wonder we keep changing our definition of what old age is as we grow older. At fourteen, thirty seems old and forty middle aged! As you turn 30, you tend to believe you are in the prime of life and funnily you think the same when you hit 40! Or 45 for that matter.

A Pew survey conducted in the USA amongst a sample size of 2,969 people, revealed that although the under 30’s tended to think that old age hits one at 60,  few 65 year olds agreed!

“Old age” is supposed to bring with it some “signs” or “markers” like memory loss or loneliness, but even here is a dichotomy between what young people think will happen (in old age) and what older adults actually experience. The so-called markers of old age like illness, memory loss, an inability to drive, an end to sexual activity, loneliness, depression, and financial difficulties were experienced at a much lower level than expected. And well, it goes without saying that those who are better off financially experience less ageing problems.

However, it was also true that older adults reported getting fewer “benefits” of ageing than they expected, like spending more time with their family, traveling more for pleasure, more time for hobbies, doing volunteer work or starting a second career.

So all in all it seems that we tend to exaggerate our fears of old age and tend to overplay the benefits!

But when does a person become old?
Now that we know that crossing the age of 60 doesn’t necessarily bring with it some sort of disability, it makes us wonder, what is the finishing line for middle age?Is it all about feeling young, or is there an age which you cross after which you fall in the “old” bracket?

Well, it is clear that people do tend to go by what they “feel” and if they feel young, they are sure that they are not old! And people feel young as long as they are active and not dependent on others. In the United States people in their eighties tend to slow down considerably, and think of themselves as old then. In India, if we only talk of the urban middle classes, perhaps the eighties would hold good too. I know several people who lead very active lives (relatively speaking) in their in their seventies. My parents are certainly in this category of elderly active people. They don’t think of themselves as “old.”

However, the truth is that there is an age at which the general public categorizes you as old. That age, the survey revealed, is 68.

Is it any different in India? Well, amongst poorer people in India this figure would change. There would be a gap of at least a decade. People who lead physically hard lives, and don’t take in adequate nutrition, or are unable to afford the right medicines, tend to age fast and tend to also suffer the markers of old age far more than their better off brethren.

Life of the elderly in India
I found a paper on conditions of elderly people in India and it says that life for the elderly is difficult in developing countries, particularly for elderly women as they are not economically secure and may be widows. Also people who do physical labour are unable to continue after a certain age and as they have no “benefits” to fall back on they become dependent on their children.  According to the findings of the paper, states like Haryana, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, and Punjab offer a better quality of life to their elderly than states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The writer of the paper has said that the more traditional societies tend to stay in joint families, thus offering a better quality of life to the elderly. On the other hand, development and a breakdown of the joint family system in some states has affected the life of the elderly. Therefore the trends are clear. India is heading towards a stage where more and more elderly parents will be on their own.

(While the two graphs are from Pew, the photograph is by me)

Related Reading: Old People in India are not ill-treated
Are adult children in India too dependent on their parents?

46 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 8:39 pm

    Lot of food for thought there, Nita! Given that nuclear families and elderly people staying alone are becoming more common in India, I guess financial planning at an earlier stage becomes even more relevant. One thing that will be needed is a change in mindset where parents don’t spend excessively on their children and keep aside a good amount of savings for themselves. While we say that you are as old as you feel, good health and financial well-being have a great deal to do with it too.

    • October 23, 2009 12:08 am

      I totally agree Apu!

    • October 23, 2009 2:28 am

      Apu: I agree with you on the need for parents to allocate their funds more carefully (and that will require an overhaul of children’s attitudes towards funding their education as well as an overhaul of bank loans etc for such purposes). It might even go a long way in addressing the imbalance between the treatment of sons and daughters in some families… (see my note to IHM below).

  2. October 22, 2009 8:59 pm

    Old age can be difficult. Especially when one adds to it retirement. I understand that the perception of what is ‘old’ can differ. On the whole I believe that aging happens especially in our mind, provided one is basically healthy. This is why retirement is both a liberation from work and a danger. It fact it takes a while to get used to freedom and leisure. One can feel useless etc.

  3. October 22, 2009 10:11 pm

    This is a fascinating topic and I thank you for presenting it so well. I have just celebrated my 60th birthday and I am experiencing the effects of ageing. My husband and I are self-employed Canadians with an income level not far above the poverty line. There will be no retirement in comfort financed by company pensions and savings for us. The bare level of the old age pension and health care avaliable to all Canadians will not be adequate enough for us to quit our small business at any time in the foreseeable future, so we expect to remain working until the state of our health prevents us from continuing.

    For comparison sake we fall into the low income segment referred to as “the working poor”. We came from large families that never had enough to eat, and who worked hard physically from a very young age to assist our parents to provide for our siblings so the could receive a college or university education or apprenticeship, and do better in life than our parents did by breaking through the working poor ceiling and entering the middle class.

    Like most Canadians our family members are spread far and wide across this vast country in various locations where we could find work. Therefore we lack the connectedness that exists in families where the members were able to remain located close to one another, and, as we have no children, we have no expectation of relatives assisting us financially in our old age. Like many Canadians, we are our own as we age with only the old age pension and minimal health care plan to fall back on, and we are now beginning to feel “old”.

  4. October 23, 2009 12:10 am

    Nita one point I would like to make is whenever we say that breaking up of joint family system has affected the senior citizens, we are only referring to those senior citizens who have sons, parents of girls always were (expected to be) on their own in their old age.

    • October 23, 2009 2:25 am

      IHM: Probably in the generation who now have teenaged or older children, and where a majority of women did not have jobs or careers outside their home! The people of my generation are finding no difference between sons and daughters. Many of my female friends’ parents live with them. In fact, in Punjabi there is a saying: “note punaya te gya, munda vyaya te gya” (the minute you change a big currency note into change, it vanishes; and the minute the son gets married, he is gone!). Which kind of expresses well how parents’ hopes of sons were tempered even in the “olden” days.

      May be with financial independence, we just negotiate better.

      • October 23, 2009 7:00 am

        Shefaly I agree. There is no difference at all, but joint family means the girl goes to live with the boys family and takes care of his parents, while her parents live alone.
        A girl’s parents are senior citizens too.

        I find the concept of Joint Family as a way of ensuring the well being of the senior citizens biased against the girl child and her parents.

        When parents know that the girl child will get married and take care of her spouse’s family (and not much reciprocation is expected here, in fact, traditionally a girl’s parents don’t even drink a glass of water at the daughter’s marital home) – is it surprising that they wish for a male child?

        In that comment I meant that Joint Family System should not be seen as means of taking care of senior citizens.

        • wishtobeanon permalink
          October 23, 2009 8:57 pm

          I agree with you, IHM. This happens especially among traditional and conservative families and there are a lot of them or atleast, I have seen many.

          • October 23, 2009 9:49 pm

            I concur with Shefaly that today we see a lot of parents living with their daughters. In fact in a society like Kerala’s the house mostly goes to daughter and parents live with the daughter in most cases.

            I also agree to what IHM said about join families. The basic concept of joint families comes from the fact that the son gets married and brings a girl home and then the girl takes care of all household duties and her husband’s parents whereas the son works outside. This concept has opened ways to many evils like dowry system, abuse on women etc. I am in support of joint families if there is no pressure like this. Parents should be free to live with anyone and also freedom to live separate.

            • October 24, 2009 12:38 am

              Agree with IHM. The taking-care-of-elderly in India is heavily biased against the daughter. Although it is true that daughters’ are also caring for their parents, it requires (a) the daughter be constantly employed and make no job sacrifices for her family or her husband, which can be quite a challenge in India or even abroad, where women do leave their jobs to raise families and/or cut costs on childcare; AND/OR (b) the partner should be equally willing and generous, especially if he realizes that his wife is making sacrifices for him.
              These things, I think, are best hashed out before marriage.

  5. October 23, 2009 7:04 am

    My parents (69 and 65) don’t consider themselves to be old and frankly, they are fitter than I am…They take care of themselves and never forget to exercise and eat healthy….They are lucky to be financially secure and are enjoying this security…They love to travel and go for at least 2 big holidays a year…My sister and I have told them to enjoy themselves and not think of saving their money for us – we are after all ‘settled’…They have sacrificed enough and now it’s their time to enjoy…

    I hope I’m as active as them in my old age…Like them, I will not expect my daughter to take care of me or sacrifice her life to live close to me – if she does, it’ll be a bonus…I think a lot of people look at their sons as security and when the sons don’t comply with their expectations, their lives fall apart…If this thinking changes, the elderly will have a better life because they’ll plan to be alone…

  6. October 23, 2009 8:24 am

    Nita, for me the most beautiful phase of life starts after 45 and can continue to be the same after that if you have planned your old age. One is financially secure, kids are capable of taking care of themselves and you have time for yourself. Health issues can be a problem but if you are conscious of that and take care, life can be great and you can reinvent yourself and your relationships.

  7. October 23, 2009 10:36 am

    Nita,perhaps amongst your most readers I must be amongst the real senior citizen.
    It is a very interesting subject.I can tell you from my experience,no none gets old in the real sense of the term.One relates to body developments as getting old.
    How old one feels is only in the mind.There are those who feel old because of financial insecurity, or if one of the partner has unfortunately died.
    So long as one keeps regular body movement including having sex,one will not get old even though one may age. Ageing is not the same as getting old.
    Example..Vajpayee is old.Advani has aged.DevAnand has aged but not become old.
    Good to read the real subjects coming up on the blog post.

  8. October 23, 2009 11:16 am

    Good post. I feel that the financial and health situation determines the happiness and comfort in old age.So better to be prepared.

  9. October 23, 2009 12:04 pm

    To help the elderly we now have the reverse mortgage. This would help them be financially secure at the time of old age, after all the property that they have would be hard earned and they would have spent their entire life to buy the property.

    Good news to the elderly, however may not be welcomed by their children as they have to either buy it back from the bank of let it go after their parents die.

    Well, this would work only for those with some property. I think all the tax payers should be getting some pension at the time of old age (not just government employees), like how the tax payers get benefits in the US.

  10. October 23, 2009 12:49 pm

    Apu, good point. I think in India parents tend to give everything they have to their kids, whether they are rich or poor. Just recently my maid informed me that her parents gave all their life’s savings (less than a lakh) to put their son through a technical course.

    Man of Roma, yes, the main thing is if you are busy and active, old age dare not touch you!

    Hi TT, lovely to see you here. Thanks for sharing your life experiences here. I think that your life is going to be quite wonderful. I think its great that you are dependent on no one. Sure, this can cause some anxiety but I hear that the Canadian health system does not distinguish between the rich and the not so rich. You are lucky to live in Canada.

    IHM, thats true. Parents of girls can suffer although now as Shefaly pointed out, there are cases where girls are looking after their parents. I know cases in arranged marriages where the boy’s side checks to see if the girl has a brother!! If she doesn’t then its a black mark against her, and they fear that her parents might become a burden.

    sraboneyghose, bingo! And I too do not expect my children to give up their life to look after me. I want to be independent.

    Prerna, thats true, middle age and beyond can be a peaceful time if everythign works out and one is financially secure.

    BK Chowla, agreed. Its all in the mind.

    Charakan, yeah be prepared but today with education becoming so expensive, parents are being forced to spend a lot.

    Xylene, I like that idea of reverse mortage but I wonder how many parents will resort to it.As you pointed out the grown up kids could get angry and to please them the parents may not do oit.

    • October 23, 2009 8:55 pm

      ” I know cases in arranged marriages where the boy’s side checks to see if the girl has a brother!! If she doesn’t then its a black mark against her, and they fear that her parents might become a burden.”

      Thanks a ton, a really big ton (as if there are different metric tons), on explaining this to me Nita…

      I have a friend who told me that one of her relatives is tired of searching for a match, as she does not have a brother, and when she tells this to the prospects they kinda run away… I couldn’t understand what kind of logic was that!

      thanks again … but also, I don’t know how much more ridiculous people can get, this is so disturbing to me. Maybe people have been doing it for quite some time now, but its news for me and a really bad one.

  11. Lakshmi permalink
    October 23, 2009 1:56 pm

    Regarding the new law in India to ‘protect’ the old, this is one more instance where the government shirks responsibility and tries to shift the burden – in this case on the children of the old. When this country does not have a law on child abuse how can they insist that children care for their old parents. Moreover, I’m certain that this law infringes some part of our constitution for how can you force people to care for their parents? Like education and healthcare, old-age security should be provided by the government.

    • October 24, 2009 12:55 am

      Lakshmi, I agree with you on principle that the government is palming off its responsibilities. Not just for the elderly, but look what it has done so far to provide or at least oversee legitimate daycare centers for children of working women. Very little I presume. They are responding to the needs of society as an afterthought.

      However, is this really a new law? From what I understand, India already had a law against abandonment.

      On the other hand, it would nice if we could find a conducive way to take care of the elderly. But the effort has to be made both ways. Once we are adults, the power structure has to readjust to become more equal between parents and grown-up kids.

    • October 25, 2009 2:13 pm

      Lakshmi: It is astonishing to me that parents can be described as “burden” by anyone! In India these are the same parents who finance their children’s education and healthcare sometimes for an eye-watering number of years. The children are not doing any parents any favours by looking after them in old age. That is the implicit social contract as well as the moral responsibility of children.

      The best thing I can wish for on those people who think of their parents as a “burden”? May these people reproduce copiously and then may their children ignore them completely in _their_ old age. After all they will get what their children see you doling out to their parents.

      And expecting the government to do everything? I thought that was for Soviet Russia and not for self-driven Indians.

      • Bombay wadapav eater permalink
        October 26, 2009 6:25 pm

        I agree with you Shefalyabout the terminology “burden”.

        In Germany we have the so-called social security system and the health insurance. So much of my salary gets into it and it gets used up for people who are old today. When I am old, the next generation will have to pay in the system for my state pension. Economically speaking, it is one of the wonders but in reality it does not work as well as it should have due to so many culprits. People who have lived a horribly unhealthy life: obese, smoking, no sport,etc. are a burden to the healthy counterparts since they misuse this system since they know that if they fall ill, treatments will be paid. The German Govt. warns us to save since the pension will be too little to have a comfortable life in old age. The problem is that the no. of retired people are much higher than the youngsters to pay into the system for the previous generation. We will probably have to work upto 75; today the retirement age here is 68. Due to better medical care, people live longer than before. In Germany, we still do not have restrictions on medical care for the old like in Finland and Sweden. There once you turn 75, the health insurance does not pay hip and knee replacements, etc. In Germany many 90-year old patients have been lying in coma in hospitals and the medical insurance finances this since unless the person has written a letter before he went into coma that he does not want his age to be prelongated by attaching to machines, the machine will not be switched off. We have been paying more into the social security pool, the health insurance pool and it is frustrating that when we are old, it will not suffice us. It is also easy for the Govt. to say “save” and then again say “spend” o.w. the economy will not survive due to no consumption. The same irony with youngsters not getting jobs and then again people will have to work longer before the state pension is paid.
        But one thing I’d like to point is that poor is not synonimous to bad health and bad diet. When we were in Ladakh on holiday, there were many Ladakhis who were probably in statistical terms poor due to the earnings per day but still they were fit as a fiddle, smiling and had a great diet with their own little farm in the backyards. Even in China, many poorer Chinese living the villages eat healthier meals with lots of fresh vegeatbles and their own produce. Those are the rich boys (since there are hardly any girls in the one-child politics) in Beijing and Shanghai who are probably obese. In Germany too, many richer people as I see in the banks hardly want to spend on healthy food tho’ in general it is true here that mostly the poorer sections eat Macdonalds and all teh cheap fatty products instaed of cooking nutricious meals and then also see too much TV instead of doing some workout. So off now to tank some autumn sun and do some vegetable shopping.

        • Vinod permalink
          October 26, 2009 9:21 pm

          Pav Eater, I would look for stats or percentages on how much money goes for such ‘underserving candidates’ in the healthcare scheme relative to the overall payouts, with some reasonable criteria drawn for defining who is a worthy candidate, before I form an opinion on the scheme

          • Bombay wadapav eater permalink
            October 27, 2009 5:36 pm

            There is no definition of worthy candidate or non-deserving candidates in Germany. Everyone’s health problems are paid according to the definitions/ regulations of the health insurance schemes and finances. What bugs me is an example I can give you:

            A single-parent German woman aged 35 with a five-year old boy needed treatment for his heart problem. I can’t remember his illness case exactly since this happened almost four years ago. I guess he had a hole in his heart or some problem with his heart. An operation if conducted would improve his life since he would be able to do all sport activities like fellow kids which he is unable to carry out at that moment. This born illness is not fatal but he has to be kept in-check and in case it worstens, the operation would be ineviatble. This operation would cost the insurance approx. 5000€. The insurance denied paying the charges unless his case was fatal and since the woman earned a paltry 100€ more in a month than a norm, the health insrance would not take up the cost and she would have to pay on her own.
            Another family(East European migrated to Germany) had a three year old daughter. The daughters milk teeth have all been decayed due to caries. The girl needs to be operated. If she doesn’t, it can be sort of fatal since the girl will not get any new teeth and her jaws might disalign and she will not be able to eat normal solids but live on liquids apart from other serious problems with her jaws. The mother assumes that her daughter had good eating habits. The dentist denies since the girl has been drinking from a suckling bottle only SWEET SUGARED drinks all day long and no plain water. She eats too many sweets and rarely normal food and has bad dental hygiene altho’ with her diet, it is not possible to save her from teh caries. Her operation has to be done by a jaw-surgeon and costs the health insurance system (in which we all pay!) 6000€. The father is jobless and the mother does small jobs once in a while but they live on social security (where again I pay into and others who work). The mother is around 28 and father 30. They have no sort of proper education. Due to their bad income status, her daughters’ treatment is legitamised and the oepration is conducted.

            Do you see any fairness in this?
            Then a friend of mine is an oncologist. He says that 85% of certain cancer cases (like lung, mouth, etc.) are smokers, some others alcholic-addicts and some like bowel is bad diet which is also a major cause.

            I don’t mind paying so much and all that I wish is my family enjoys good health and we continue to try living as healthy as possible altho’ my mother lives in Bombay and does not get anything out of the pension scheme. When she comes here for a visit, I have to buy her a health insurance which can cost anything between 260€ to 700€ depending on her age! I am not sure but I belive probably 50’s and 60’s, parents who visited automatically were taken care by the same health scheme. But some of this unfairness is sometimes really very annoying. Imagine if you are an economist like me and earned 4500€ and after income-tax, health insurance, social security, you have 2000€ in hand. 1100€ you need for your rent and if you plan to buy healthy food (only organic as I try to), you have to shell another 500€. You have no leisure activities like restaurants, opears, etc. unless you somehow reallocate your finances. Your car, etc. also costs and if you have a child like in my case, you have to shell another 300-400€ on him (creche 265€, train travel ticket 75€ since I cannot ride my bicycle like I used to), you hardly save 200€ at the end of the month. And in Germany where seasons change with every season, you need to buy new clothes and shoes for the growing child. It’s not like in Bombay that clothes are replaced once the child grows. I remember having only a school uniform and shoes and three or four free-time clothes and a pair of chappals; gumboots for monsoon and a raincoat. Btw, I am not working now but that is the case now. And if I plan to put my son in a bilingual private school: if the family annual income is 55000€ (i.e. 4500€ a month), I need to spend 880€ for his school fees without school lunch. School bus and lunch cost an extra! So in case others would also have lived a healtjier life and tried not to exploit the insurance and social security system, probably I would have to pay lesser into these systems and have more. If I would work in a bank today in Bombay, probably I would earn 80000 Rs in a month and after taxes even if I had 50000€ in hand and paid 10000 for rent, 5000 for school, 6000 for food and some extras for 10000. I still can save and most of teh banks these days also provide medical care for their employees I guess. Your income is not just snatched away from the beginning for social security (state pension) and other causes.

    • vasudev permalink
      October 25, 2009 4:28 pm

      i agree entirely! unfortunately in india the govt knows only about taking w/o giving. it is entirely a one way traffic…tax till one works…tax one’s old age pension and savings and tax one’s death.

  12. October 23, 2009 7:40 pm

    Being rich does not give immunity from loneliness… In fact, it is more in the rich families that I find parents are alone while their children are settled abroad or living individually.

    Destination Infinity

  13. wishtobeanon permalink
    October 23, 2009 9:00 pm

    Hi Nita, a good article!

  14. October 23, 2009 9:56 pm

    My 90 year old neighbor lives alone. Of course she has maid and gardener. For cooking most of her things just need microwave or oven. So she is independent. She drives and wears the best clothes even at this age..not to forget her manicured nails. 🙂 I am in awe of her. Her son who is 68 is old and actually not as healthy as her. He visits her twice a week but it is her who still takes care of him whenever he visits and then she comes and tells me how she is worried about him.

    In my opinion as long as we are healthy, we should be independent.

    Speaking strictly for Indian parents, I think financial security is utmost important. Giving away every piece of land and last penny to children is not a good idea and also it is important to teach children financial independence too. We still see girls and boys even at the age of 25-26 still living with parents and not bringing a single penny home.

    Loneliness can occur at any age. People often find older people who live alone lonely but I have seen even the ones who live with children feeling left out and lonely. You can be lonely in a house full of people too if you are neglected. The emotional attachment is more important than the physical one. Being there for each other.

  15. October 23, 2009 11:30 pm

    What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
    What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
    To view each loved one blotted from life’s page,
    And be alone on earth, as I am now.


  16. October 24, 2009 12:48 am

    Nita, there’s loads I’d like to say about this, but I just offloaded this concern in a long post a few weeks ago! The link is below. Please share what you think.

    While writing the post, I found some great discussion by Agelessbonding , Maami and others. Do check out their work if you can.

    Briefly, I’ll agree with you that people have personal “markers” to define old age. Purposelessness can advance those markers. The more people find a purpose in life after their kids leave home, the easier it is for them to enjoy the silver years.

    Thanks for the paper. Will read in detail.

    The BlogHer post: Aging India’s Dilemma in a Nuclear Society

  17. October 24, 2009 12:01 pm

    You have to remain young at heart, positive/optimistic in nature and ever-smiling by face .. You will never feel old then ..

    Of course the age and hence body/cells/organs will deteriorate with time but if you are positive to adapt to these changes, you can live and even die happily ..

    Death and age are not in our control but our life is .. !!

    • vasudev permalink
      October 24, 2009 10:17 pm

      i agree entirely!

    • Vinod permalink
      October 26, 2009 9:24 pm

      The mind has a link to the body’s state. It is not totally delinked. The mind cannot, without a struggle, form a self-image independent of the body’s state.

  18. October 25, 2009 4:11 am

    Nice post Nita… so relevant to our present situations…

    Its in the mind, I guess… Even by 30 one can think that he/she is old enough… and another thing not many wants them to feel like old.. as we see from the survey age of becoming old increased with every age group..

    and the last part is also true… The southern states were facing the issue as this is the first generation which has chosen Nuclear family.. so people will prepare themselves from now on for the old age…

  19. October 25, 2009 5:42 pm

    Dignity Foundation has been working on providing much needed recognition and yes, dignity, to the aging persons in society. Aging is associated with disabilities, but if one takes good care of oneself and with the grace of god, it is not difficult to steer clear of them or cope with them. While several activities like crossword puzzles, sudoku, etc are said to keep up the mental activity, interaction with younger people and other friends can keep old people from sulking into age-related withdrawals. The wrong notion that old people cannot contribute to society is often the most damaging and that perception needs to be changed.

  20. October 25, 2009 9:14 pm

    Very soon to be 75 and I don’t feel old.
    There are some disadvantages to aging and one of the most common is a weakened memory system. A blank can pop up at any moment, such as a person’s name and can be embarrassing unless you have given up getting embarrassed as I have. There is one thing that I constantly forget. I can’t remember just what that is at the moment but it’s no big deal anyway. A doctor told me that this is a common problem as you get older, offered up some suggestions and concluded that I was actually OK – for a guy my age. But I’m not too sure what a veterinarian should know about my mental well-being anyway.

    Eye floaters, object and dots that reside in the field of vision for awhile, are common. Last week I chased fruit flies around the kitchen with no luck, and am not sure there were any.

    Ah but there are also many advantages of reaching a ripened age! People keep telling me that I’m looking good. There are hardly any rerun movies on TV and anything I haven’t seen for a year is new. And there’s so much more. . . .

    Regrets? Guilt? I would be burdened with them, but only if I ever stopped to think about them again and I won’t! Being a senior is a time when you are able to say “I don’t care” about certain problems, perhaps problems that weren’t even problems. So many worries never materialize or fade away quickly.

    Maybe at the BIG 80 I will begin to age.

    • "Tree Hugger" permalink
      October 26, 2009 7:18 am

      @Ken at Social Fix:

      Thanks for a delightful comment. It makes ageing sound like a lot of fun. I am just a little more than a decade behind you, and look forward to sailing well past the promised “threescore-and-ten.”

    • Vinod permalink
      October 26, 2009 11:05 am

      There is one thing that I constantly forget. I can’t remember just what that is at the moment but it’s no big deal anyway

      Ken, great one. And a delightful post.

  21. October 26, 2009 7:44 am

    Lakshmi, forcing never works. That I agree.

    DI, when you have less money it makes little sense to have two establishments. I guess that is why one finds more joint families amongst the less better off.

    Jagmeet Singh Hanspal, yes sad isn’t it!

    wishtobeanon, thanks.

    Solilo, true, the root of the evil of dowry and many other kinds of discrimination against women is because this, the belief that the woman becomes “paraya dhan” and the boy and his wife supposedly stay with the parents and look after them in their old age.

    Reema, only a poet would see it that way!

    SS, but don’t you think its possible for a son=in-law to support his wife’s parents if the wife is not working? I know of a case of a good friend of ours and both his mother and mother-in-law live with them. However, I know this is not a common occurrence.

    Soham, all the power to your words!

    vasudev, 🙂 good to see you back.

    kanagu, the survey on India measured the quality of life of the elderly and I guess those parents living with their kids probably have a better quality of life. I wonder whats going to happen when the joint family breaks up all over India. Not all children will send money to their parents to live a decent life.

    Gopinath, while doing crossword puzzles to keep one’s mind sharp is laudable, the idea sends a shiver down my back! I want to work till the day I die.

    Ken, thanks for sharing your life. And let me assure you, young people forget things too.

    • vasudev permalink
      October 27, 2009 2:18 pm

      thank you nita! nice to see you back too. during your absence there was hardly any movement here.

  22. Rekha permalink
    October 26, 2009 6:05 pm

    Strange, that I should visit your site after such a long time and see the the most recent article on old age – a topic thats been troubling me. It so happens that I came to know yesterday that a few days ago an old lady (70 odd years old) burnt herself to death by pouring herself with kerosene when alone in the house (only 15 year old grand-daughter in the house) . This is a well-to-do family in Kerala i am talking about. She was well loved and taken care of by her children, but of late had become totally dependent on them physically becos of ill health. She had brought up her kids almost single handedly and was quite a happy person (atleast thats what we thought!)

    I truly wonder to what depths of depression she must have gone into to have decided to take her life in such a painful way!

    Sad to hear about this case. But one never knows what the real reasons are. – Nita

    • October 26, 2009 11:18 pm

      That is one of the disadvantages of being rich and doing a lot of things (financially and otherwise) for the kids expecting them to take care of us during old age – first they are spoilt due to the excess money showered at them and then when it comes to the actual taking care part (during old age), since they were never used to hard work themselves, they find it most difficult and the best bet in such cases is employing a servant to take care of elderly people – which might be ok with certain people but sometimes not very amicable for others – after all, they think they have spent decades making money and given the best to their kids – why should they be treated this way? – A very valid question this.

      Being rich is no immunity to old age problems. At best, your kids might stay with you for the money creating dramas – if that is what you want. Of course, it also depends on what example the person has set with their parents – in most cases, they would have been ignored similarly.

      Destination Infinity

      • vasudev permalink
        October 29, 2009 9:38 am

        DI…very true indeed! one wise thing my parents are doing is to keep us children away from their estates. no partition. they say do it after we pass on. i am in full agreement with them because i have also seen the fate of a few uncles of mine who got neglected by their children after their properties were divided. and it only resulted in fragmentation of the family which was hitherto well united.

  23. waterfriend permalink
    October 28, 2009 1:14 am

    i am 76
    if you care to see my blog regularly, you will notice that i am prolific writer, alresdy made 240 posts.
    normally one feels that happiness is always in the past tense. we say :
    how happy i was !
    in my case, I feel how happy i am, because i discoverd very recently that i can write short stories.
    are some of my stories.
    this gives me very good satisfaction. the first one is about a naxalite.please read it.

  24. October 29, 2009 11:04 am

    This is a topic that’s been on my mind lately. It is only through the behavior of others that I sometimes realize my age!

    The first time children called me “Uncle”, I was shocked as it was quite unexpected. Nowadays, youngsters also do the same.

    Which has led me to think about age as we perceive it in the mind and physical age, both of which often have no correlation with each other…

  25. Dev permalink
    November 5, 2009 7:33 am

    Nita, it was nice reading your post and the follow up comments on what other people think of old age and how they cope up with aging and all. This is one of my most discussed topics and I’m always reading about it, waiting to hear about some latest anti-ageing breakthroughs in science. 🙂
    Jokes apart, you and some of your readers already mentioned many things which I believe in generally, but then our emotional response to aging is very complex. One day we are comfortable about it and the next moment, it sounds terrible that we are getting old and that next month we will be 25 or 35 or 50 or 70!!
    Because, as you also mentioned, it’s all relative too. As far as I remember, I started feeling uncomfortable about turning a year older on my birthday as back as when I turned 15!! I know it sounds stupid, but I was devastated when I turned 25 and could not believe then that I was unhappy when I had turned 20. And, so on it continued. Until just a few years back, turning 35 sounded horrible and 40 some sort of an ancient age!! But, today-as I move towards my mid thirties- I seem to have now accepted that I will be 35 one day, not that far, and also 40 doesn’t seem that old I’m sure that I will be laughing if I ever read this twenty years from now, but then that’s the complexity of this whole business of getting older.
    Finally, the definition of middle age and old age seems to be changing every decade and is also bit country/region specific. I mean there is no clear cut consensus on when middle age or old age starts. For some, 50 is young and for them, the middle age starts not before 50. And for others, 40 is middle aged!

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