Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

February 23, 2012

INDIA: No safety net for senior citizens with nuclear families on the rise

MUMBAI, India / The Times of India / February 23, 2012

By Sumitra Deb Roy

The death of Sharda Kasabkar (70) after a year of lonely existence may not be an isolated incident. With nuclear families on the rise, and more young couples choosing to raise their children without the 'interference of an older generation', senior citizens are often left to fend for themselves in Mumbai. But experts say that nuclear families miss the cushion of unconditional love and support that only the elderly can provide.

The Indian tradition of letting grandparents participate in parenting benefits everyone, say psychologists and family counsellors. Head of psychological medicine at KEM Hospital Dr Shubhangi Parkar said that the role of grandparents range from providing a cultural base to acting as mediator between parents and their children. 

"Rebellious children are almost always at loggerheads with their parents. Here, the grandparents play an important role as an impartial negotiator," she said. "The elderly can help the family tide over any crisis with advice, experience and emotional support. They provide a cultural root by giving children memories of people, relationships, etc," she added.

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On the flip side, city doctors also have cases where grandparents are seen as someone interfering with a disciplined upbringing . General secretary of Geriatric Society of India Dr OP Sharma said that inter-generation relations should be constantly evolving. "Elders are a storehouse of knowledge and experience but they have to be accommodative and receptive to new ideas," he said.

Consultant psychiatrist with P D Hinduja Hospital Dr Vasant Mundra said that while grandparents can be 'valuable baby-sitters ' and an excellent form of alternative parenting, there are also tricky situations involved that require tact. He explained that in certain number of cases, elderly people show massive personality changes as they age.

"Senior citizens themselves become childlike and demand attention. In most cases, their own children find it difficult to accept why their parent is behaving in a particular way when they are supposed to be and caring ," said Mundra. "Here, couples have to understand and handle their parents with compassion ," he said.

Copyright © 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.
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