Old and Lonely in New India – NYT

We continually update GaramChai.com with new listings. In a new section for “Elderly NRIs” of GaramChai.com , we feature issues and listings featuring elderly and aging for Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and people of Indian origin.

A recent article in New York Times by Sandip Roy, Old and Lonely in New India, makes for an interesting read. The author highlights pertinent topics impacting the aging population in India including

  • According to the Global Age Watch Index, a survey by Help Age International that measures the quality of life — using income security, health, personal capability and enabling environment — for people age 60 and older, India ranked 71 out of 96 countries in 2015.
  • An aging specialist once told me that in the West, development came before longevity, but in India aging has come before development. The problem is not the 100 million seniors. The problem is they do not have enough savings. There is little by way of a social safety net and health infrastructure. Too few have health insurance or pensions.
  • Old-age homes still carry the stigma of abandonment and destitution. Adult day care centers are too few. Many old-age homes do not accept patients with dementia. Public transport is not senior friendly. Physicians who do home visits are hard to find, though cataract and knee replacement surgeries are booming.
  • What my generation can offer our parents is money and technology. We install Skype on their phones so that they can talk to faraway grandchildren. What did you eat today? How is school? We fly back and forth to do our duty, propelled by equal parts love and guilt. An uncle pretty much commutes from New Jersey to Kolkata to arrange for his mother’s cancer treatment. A grand-aunt insists her grandchildren take exemplary care of her. Her old family retainer scoffs at the face-saving lie.

While a few NRIs remotely manage the affairs of elderly parents, a few decide to relocate back to India. Check out the blog “Life lessons on relocating to India: Six lessons from a six year old”

About a year ago, I was at the crossroads, wondering about work-life decision I had to take. My dad, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer a while ago was starting to gradually slow down. My aging parents lived alone in Bangalore, and I got the dreaded phone call from my mother on the verge of breakdown herself, asking for help.

After a rushed trip to Bangalore to assess and assist – I arranged for a caregiver to help them at night – I began to reflect on the course of action to take. I was living the American dream thousands of miles away – a well-paying job with a multinational, a cozy house in the suburbs of Anytown, USA and our pesky six-year old enjoying the early years at his elementary school.

Fastforward a year. I have come to appreciate how those diagnosed with terminal illnesses and their caregivers quickly learn to appreciate the glass half-full. Thanks to the “extended family” being around, my parents seem much more relaxed. Little Vijay, now Seven, gets to spend quality time with his grandparents and is learning a couple of Indian languages with his new school pals. As for Suja and me, we are learning to enjoy and re-live a bit of the contemporary Indian-dream; till the winds of change blow our way again.

Elderly NRI and senior citizen

Techie reaches mother’s flat on return from US, finds her skeleton