Senior Citizen's Resources

A survey undertaken by the China Research Centre in July 2004 on ageing found that more than one third of the elderly people in rural areas felt lonely, most of the time. This should be true in India also. With most people in rural areas depending on agriculture as a means of livelihood, their income levels very often force them to neglect their parents. While people in urban areas may have access to some form of retirement income, the situation in rural areas is particularly of concern. A report quoted in the Indian Express (13 May 05, Kochi Edition), had brought out that less than 2% of the presently employed population in India was covered by some form of pension scheme. Economic difficulties have forced many senior citizens to continue working to support themselves. The difference in thinking caused by the age gap between the parents and children has also increased elderly people's loneliness.

Loneliness and Depression

Old age is one of life's thresholds that none of us in our middle age are emotionally and psychologically prepared for. We can not even imagine that time will actually take its toll on our body eventually. We may fight off, stave off old age with exercise and diet, or simply deny realities by dyeing hair and using skin serums. In reality, but for some accidents, majority of people will die incrementally of chronic diseases like diabetes or hardening of the arteries, as against our dream of dying in our sleep, or of a sudden heart attack while doing a job we like. Similarly, as we age, we will also experience the passing away of friends and relatives, with increasing frequency. Old age and loss goes hand in hand.

Fear of Aging

The very thought of old age brings our worst fears forward - of being stuck to a bed or wheelchair, of being a burden to loved ones, of losing the ability to reason and above all, of being alone. Depression is epidemic among the aged. According to a study, 20 % of the aged are clinically depressed. Incidences of attempted suicide are also common among the elderly. Treating depression in the elderly can be quite difficult. There are many who tend to view depression as a character weakness. An elderly person's determination may mask symptoms and also stop them from seeking help. When they actually seek help, help may also be hard to find. The biggest problem, however, is of physical isolation. In a world where awareness about problems experienced during old age is very limited, there may be no one available who can recognize the symptoms and help the depressed elderly person.

The only good news is that depression is treatable. Medication should be considered as a treatment option. Today's new generation of antidepressants can perform wonders and correct chemical imbalances with a minimal of side effects. Many elderly people, who are used to working, suddenly find their life drifting without meaning. Employment, whether paid or unpaid, gives a new meaning to their life. It does not matter what the job is. Serving others makes anyone feel better.

We suffer many losses as we age. It is normal to grieve about these losses. Sometimes, we may be unable to express our feelings of loss out loud. A friend or care giver can play the role of caring listener, not necessarily offering "solutions". Thus, one can help ease them through their grief.

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