There was time when we lived, unitedly as a Joint Family under one roof with different blood relatives – father, mother, grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunty, grandchildren and many more, now living a pathetic life of loneliness.
For generations, Jammu and Kashmir had a prevailing tradition of the joint family. The system is an extended family arrangement prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent, particularly in India, consisting of many generations living in the same home, all bound by the common relationship.
We have forgotten it all completely or are in the process of doing it. The senior citizens, referred to as elders, face certain problems as a consequence of the social transformation. This is reflected in the transition from the traditional ways of life to modern patterns, which require many compromises and adjustments. One of these involve old age homes. What is the genesis of old age homes and how have they changed life patterns for the elders? These questions need to be examined dispassionately.
One has to go back in time few decades to see the life pattern of elders and chronologically trace the developments that led to the slow yet steady changes triggered by circumstances. In a joint family or extended family system, elders used to live with not only their children but also with their brothers, sisters or uncles and aunts in nearby houses, mostly in villages or in small towns. They would live close by, helping each other for many purposes, be it happy small events or big occasions like marriages. They would take on emergencies such as health problems or deaths together. The social fabric was well-woven and due respect was given to elders. Times have changed and now in Jammu and Kashmir we old age homes and many parents in old age have no one to take care of them. There is also dearth as regards availability of homes for differently abled and there are also insufficient orphanages.
The high court recently directed the government to file a status report regarding construction of old age homes; orphanage; shelter facilities for women and persons in difficulties as well as shelter homes for differently abled persons.
It also sought status of the beneficiaries under the schemes as also pendency of the applications shall be placed before the court.
The life of elders in the present age is full of problems. Some fortunate few depart with satisfaction and peace of mind, while others leave with an unhappy state of mind.