Myths about Elderly Citizens

Colonel Achal Sridharan, VSM

I am a senior citizen, nearing seventy years of life on planet Earth. A life that saw 30 years in uniform and the remainder spent usefully in the civil streets. Having been an entrepreneur for over 23 years and considered a pioneer in senior living and care, I wish to give my expression to the various myths about the elder citizens.

1. Myth: All elders are prone to sickness and thus hospital must be close to their place of residence

This is far from the truth. On the contrary, young people are prone to more sickness. We elders have been fighting these germs and bacteria for years and have developed excellent immune system. Elders may have some aches and pains and these go away with proper medical counseling, which is basically, the doctor listening, touching and using the stethoscope on the patient and not writing endless tests and prescriptions. Also, we need to adopt stretching exercises as part of our daily exercise routine.

We elders love to talk and many of us go to a doctor who shows empathy and not sympathy and, would talk to and not at us. Loneliness kills us. We need to talk to some one. Any doctor who finds solutions to our complaints with the standard answer “ you need to put up with the pain – you are ageing!” is disliked the most of us at our age! That doctor does not have empathy for the seniors.

2. Myth: Elders need emergency evacuation arrangements to be moved to hospital

True. 908 services are very efficient. There is no need to have an ambulance 24X7 at the medical centre or at your doorstep. Since it does not run most of the time, the chances are that in an emergency, the ambulance may not start! Also we can withstand our medical condition in emergencies longer than those who are much younger to us!

3. Myth: Chances of survival after heart attacks for elders are remote

This is not true. Many and not most elders either already have had heart problems or may develop one. The most vulnerable people from heart attacks are the people in the age bracket of 45-55 years, when one neglects health and wants to be achievers in this corporate world. If an elder gets a heart attack, he or she survives because their hearts have taken such poundings through beatings for many years! The elders have tough hearts. Some of us have eight Stents and continue to perform stunts! No problem! One of the current theories that one gets to read is that if nothing is done to a patient who gets a heart attack, the heart finds alternate arteries and there is no need for angioplasty or stent(s) or open heart surgery! I am not vouching for this theory either!

If anyone has to die, he or she will die! Nothing can stop death! This belief is true as much for elders as for youngsters. And, pray why make all those efforts to live in an ICU with ventilators and suffer costly surgeries to defy death?

4. Myth: Elders are lonely and miss their children and grand children

It is true that elders who are single suffer from loneliness. When the spouse dies, there is an empty space. But generally elders living with their spouses or living in a group like a senior living community, find ways and means to remain busy – be as it may to go to the bank or post office every day or meet friends or enjoy with our little group of walkers or ghup-shup! We pick up some hobby or devote time for gardening or anything that we wanted to do when we were young but could not find time then.

True we miss our children and grand children, but not to the extent of getting depression. In the technology driven world that we live today, we can see and speak to our children every day and whenever we wish to. We educated our children and take pride in their achievements, especially when they go abroad to pursue education or career or both. We realise that our children need to lead their lives of their own choosing.

We are fond of our grand children since many of us could not devote quality time to our children. We too were part of the rat race! Now, we have all the time for our grand children. We enjoy seeing them grow and are proud of each milestone our grand children achieve. Our guilt feelings get dissipated when we take care of our grand children.

But our children want their own experimentation in bringing up their children. They feel that our methods are outdated! I have heard our daughters telling my wife and me, ”you do not know!” And, I agree with them. We are outdated to make smart kids out of our grand children, though we made our children smart!

In the initial years, our grand children adore us because we never scold them and we are play-acting or fooling around with them. They enjoy our love and in our eyes, our grand children can do nothing wrong! They are the best. We love singing their praises to all and sundry. And repeat their antics to anyone who would listen n number of times!

As our grandchildren grow, they realise that we grand parents have become out dated and perhaps, even their parents are getting out dated! History does indeed repeat itself! Our grandchildren get bored with the stories that we would perhaps have repeated many times. A day comes, as they enter into their teens, they do not want to listen to the same stories but have “better things to do!” After all, they are part of the generation of smart kids! When this realization dawns on us, we speak less and less of our grand children’s achievements, unless it is something very great.

Yes, we elders love our children and grand children but to say that we miss them in this electronically wired world may not be true!

5. Myth: Elders are adamant and cannot adjust to new surroundings where their children live?

True. We seniors love continuity. We want a set routine, set of friends and relatives in the same station (though we may not see them often or see them at weddings or funerals). Our children do not mind moving from cities to cities looking for greener pastures. We did that when we were young! But now, we do not want to loose our friends in the Mohalla, where we had lived our lives.

We also do not want to be seen dependent on our children for every thing. Elders love their freedom, independence and a dignified life.

When we live with our children, especially in a foreign country, we sit at home since our children go to work and our grand children go to school or college. In an alien city and culture, we are like fish out of water. We miss the Kirana store, the chai stall, the neighbours to whose homes we can simply barge into (instead of fixing date and time and, calling on people), go for walks with our group of walkers etc. We simply love the life in our cities and suburbs, even if it is chaotic! We are used to it.

As one ages, long air travels become painful – even by Business Class. We take more time to get rid of Jet Lag!

So, it is not that we do not want to live with our children. We want to live on our terms and lifestyle that we are used to. It is also true that mothers adjust to the homes of the children more easily than fathers! Ladies are more adjusting – that is why a single lady or widow seldom gets depression after the demise of the husband but a widower is lost after the demise of his wife and is prone to depression!

6. Myth: Elders depend on children for decision-making

This is true with increasing age. Insecurity makes elders take decision easily and there is a marked inclination to seek children’s permission or advice on even some mundane issues.

I have listed out some of the major myths about the elder class! It is the way we are and why not?

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