A case of Kanpur
The Indian family has traditionally provided natural social security to the old people. However, in more recent times, the traditional role of the family is being shared by institutions such as old age homes. It is often assumed, and sometimes argued, that the absence of familial care and surroundings induce feelings of loneliness among the residents of old age homes. This study, conducted in an old age home in Kanpur, seeks to understand the experience of loneliness. This is examined with reference to the concepts of ‘social loneliness’ and ‘desolation’ advanced by Weiss and Townsend respectively. The phenomenon is also examined vis-à-vis the activity theory of ageing, which states that engaging in activities help the elderly in overcoming loneliness, improves their health and augments self-esteem. Contrary to expectations, the findings suggest that the residents in this particular old age home do not experience loneliness. This is partly because they try to keep themselves busy by taking up various activities. Other reasons have to do with regular familial contact and the nature of the old age home, which invokes Hindu scriptures to emphasise the spiritual duties of the elderly.
The paper examines the extent of loneliness felt by the residents of an old age home in India where the family has always provided care and comfort to the elderly. A set of cultural norms backed by Hindu religious ideals has ensured the proper care of the elderly by the younger generation. It is often assumed that the absence of such a care system in old age homes may cause feelings of loneliness and depression among the residents. The paper, which is based on a study I conducted in an old age home of Kanpur city in India, seeks to find out whether the loss of traditional social care does indeed create loneliness and depression among...