The land’s people at large revel themselves in identifying themselves first and others next by using a plethora of faiths, creeds, castes, lingo, region and what have you. Mercifully, the seniors in all these diverse and time-honoured classes earn their distinct identity by just one factor, the factor of age. Being portrayed as seniors, read oldies, based on their tough-to-hide features such as wrinkled skin, bald pate, unsteady walk, toothless oral cavity, poor vision, hearing loss, illnesses betraying age and so on is another matter. Given the officially declared rise of longevity in the country’s bulging population, the presence of seniors in the total headcount has just crossed the mark of ten per cent, the actual number exceeding 130 million. Dependency on their kin to lead a reasonably comfortable life, subject to the aforementioned various handicaps, altered status in society, economic self-reliance and the sense of wellness in both mental and physical terms bug the seniors in as many ways and to as much extent as they went through life’s pre-senior years and their means of livelihood in a long list ranging from beggary to babudom.
Engaging oneself in life during the course from youth to senior stage in different activities and addressing challenges that create inhospitable circumstances have been spelt out by the country’s luminaries of a distant past that come in handy to seniors who cannot put the clock back by not complying with the failsafe ground rules of life. But, there are not many takers.
The factor of mutual outlook of seniors and society towards one another in a booming economy on one side and a poorly-performing economy makes a fascinating study. Retirees of Government receiving pension sufficient to protect them from embarrassment of cashlessness and the rustics at large felled by age are different kettles of fish. Notably, the budget of the Union Government presented for 2019-20 makes no provision benefiting seniors of either kind. Only eight per cent of the seniors in the land received adequate pension, while their counterpart in the villages have to look to providence with no hopes of living happily, even minimally.
Illnesses and disabilities that are integral part of life for seniors, many initiatives being taken by successive Governments helps in mitigating their hardship only if the implementing arm of administration functions with empathy towards seniors, and create a society in which there is no room for disenchantment. At the end of the day, today’s society is what the seniors created when they were in charge of the duties and responsibilities. The idiom “As you sow, so shall you reap” says it all.