‘Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to a man’. -LEON TROTSKY
Life cycle changes over time as a person grows old. He passes through different phases of life and gets opportunity to experience changing situations in life. There come situations when a person feels fortunate to have a great life whereas, all the same, situation arrives when a person is made to have worst experiences of life. He is made to feel alone, socially isolated or segregated in the society. Sometimes, there comes a situation, when the houses, which were typically considered to be large and spacious, motivate its residents to consider other housing options. My research, basically revolves around the people who choose to live in old homes. My research question is based upon their perspective about this residential segregation and the bonds they have developed within themselves in the old house. I also tend to disucuss the reasons behind choosing such an institutional living.
Old age segregation is highly debatable topic and a lot of literature is existing which highlights different perspectives of such segregation. TIME TO MOVE?A LITERATURE REVIEW OF HOUSING FOR OLDER PEOPLE by franceska Richard and Gill Walker, looks into the social context of housing for aged ones. It covers the demographic material, facts about social framework of housing for older people. This includes a review of demographic information, evidence relating to the needs, perspectives and choices of the aged people with respect to this housing, along the problems of segregation and marginalization and their impact on their livings. Attitudes towards Old Age: A Study of the Self-Image of Aged is another article by Philip O. Sijuwade, which looks into the different approaches , stereotypes, and age factors which regulates suitable behaviors for the older ones(social image). It states that, old ones have developed their self-image too, which depicts the way they think of themselves and the way ‘others’ think of them. This article is based on primary research states that stereotypes have been built about the aged people of the society and they are not treated in the way they deserve to be. Residential satisfaction of the older adults in age-segregated facilities is an article by Sandra G. Reynolds and Julia O. Beamish which looks into the housing satisfaction of old home people with liberated living services. Twenty one residents contributed as a focus group and results showed that these old people liked safe and secure atmosphere and value good design, friendly neighborhood, privacy and residential characteristics. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Old Age: Review and Model Refinemnt is an article by G. Clare Wenger and Richard Davis, presents an empirical literature on social isolation and marginalization and links it with an existing publication. He indicates that main factors of social isolation includes marital status, social interaction, health conditions, behavior of ‘others’, type of networking and loss of mobility. One of the famous sociologists Livson conducted a research ,‘The Transition into Retirement and Old Age’ in 1962 and found that survival of family, economic condition and health condition along with other factors plays important role as individuals adopts to grow old. She is of the view that changes in economic and health status are not only the issues which require our attention. Most important issue is the adjustment of that particular person into the current situation according to the increasing age. Methodology:
My research methodology constitutes both primary and secondary research. My primary research was basically a qualitative one, and I choose to visit an old house situated near Bhhatta Chowk. In old house, I interviewed a total of 15 people in two visits to old house. In those 15 people, 12 were the residents of old house, 7 of them were male and 5 were female. Other than these 12 people I interviewed three more ladies who were there to visit their friends. My interviews were structured and semi structured and I asked question according to the situation and personality of the person. The focus of my questions generally revolved around their perspective about this residential segregation and the bonds they have developed within themselves in the old house. So extract the proper information I had discussions about their family background and the reasons for which they preferred or forced to live in old house. My finding and results are further supported by secondary research. In my secondary research, I used the existing literature to support my arguments. In paper, Attitudes towards old age: A study of the Self- Image of Aged, Philip O. Sijuwade studies the societal attitudes that shape the social behavior towards aged persons. He also attempts to study the self-image of the aged and their perceptions about their own social image and the influence of that social image on their own personality. My findings were well supported by ‘A STUDY OF OLD AGE HOMES IN THE CARE OFTHE ELDERLY IN GUJARAT’. It is a basically a report based upon the research work carried out in Gujrat. It attempts to fill some of the gaps in the scholarship regarding elderly population and the current institutional backing provided to them. This research was carried out with the aim to understand the prevailing institutional accommodations for care of older people in the state of Gujarat and to look into a viewpoint of the aged on several aspects related to institutional living. Results and Finding
In the modern world, there is a sharp difference between interest of new and older generation. Youngsters are more attracted towards the ideas of joyful activities, education, sports and games, while older ones are highly embedded with the ideas of health and security or religious and peaceful activities. For this reason the intergeneration gap has increased tremendously and lead to the spatial segregation of both the age groups. Old ones are no more involved in youngster’s activities. In case of older ones, this spatial segregation is termed as age segregation, which in most of the cases takes a form of residential segregation. Residents of old homes (residentially segregated) are provided with an age segregated arrangements, where common characteristics and life experience promote friendship, higher morale, social involvement and lower stress. Old house is a place where friendship and social role creates new social groups and improves social integration and where the common attitude and behavior provides social support. In old houses similar life style and more or less same priorities provides quality time to the residents and it also lowers the medical and leisure treatments at lower cost. Age segregation is directly related to the amount of participation in on site activities. My findings show that most residents feel comfortable while living in an age segregated environment where they have high moral spirit and core social values with more opportunities of social contract and social involvement. They have developed retirement communities to help each other in the time of need. Old houses have provided them with family environment though these arrangements can’t replace the original family but it helped the residents to heal their wounds and live their remaining life happily and productively. Many people living in the old houses are doing so despite having their own children. In our society it is expected that when parents are old, their children will take care of them and they seems to be the prime support for their parents in the old age. In my research I also tried to find out whether they still think of their children as one of the most reliable source of support in their old hood. There were several reasons because of which they came to old house. First and foremost reason was to avoid any family conflict and to be cared in a better way. Most of the respondents said that they were the core reason for any family conflict between their son and daughter in law. One of the old lady said, ‘Roz lrae hoti the. Bahu rani kehti thi mjy alehda kerdo. Is say pehlay k unka gher toot jata, Main nay khud alehda honay main behteri samjhi baita.’(There were fights on daily basis. Daughter in law wanted to live separately. Before the things become worst, I found it better to get separated myself). A 64 years old lady, Sakeena bibi, who was there to visit her friend, added “Gher gher yahi haal hay beta. Bahu tou bahu bachay bhi nahi puchtay. Mujhay or meray khawand ko aik doosray ka sahara hy bus. Kia pta kab hamain bhi yahan ana per jae.” (Situation is same everywhere. Other than daughter in law, children also don’t care. I and my husband are highly dependent upon each other. Don’t know, if we would be here too.)Because of this very reason they were not treated well so, they moved to old house for better care and treatment and to avoid any family conflict a well.
Another reason which forced aged people to move to an old house was the lack of physical space in their children house which makes them feel that they are becoming a burden on their children who in this age of competition and increasing expenditures are facing problems. So, to live with dignity and self-respect and to lower the burden of their children, aged people tend to move to old house where they can live independently with dignity and self-respect. a 69 year old Hamid said, ‘aaj kul tou bus paisay ko salaam hay. Wo hi sub ka maa baap hy. Jab tak kamatay thay bri izzat thi. Ab aulad ki apni zrooriat hi poori nahin hotin. Zara sa kuch maang lo tou gher ka mahol khrab hojata hay’. (Now-a-days, money is everything. When we used to earn, we were respected. But now our children have their own expenditures. If we ask them for something, that would definitely spoil the environment) Some of them were of the view that society should provide them different opportunities to pursue the remaining life according to their own wish and preference. Another reason for moving to old house is the motivation of old people to have choices and maintain control over personal decisions. This allows them to remain independent and through this they avoid to be burden on their children. In old house they have complete authority over their movements and decisions about their future life and they maintain their self-respect and dignity as well. An interviewee, Ismail, states that ‘mali halaat tou theek thay magar shaed izzat kernay walon main kami agae hy. Sari zindagi perhaia likhaya magar sila na mila. Hamain tou beta izzat piari hay, werna kaam tou her koi ker daita hay’ (Financial conditions was good but people have forgot how to respect someone. I worked hard throughout my life but got nothing. All we need is respect since anyone can look after us) Another reason that I found out in my interviews was the physical condition of the aged people. According to them they felt that because of change in their physical personality, which is inevitable, they learned not to interfere in any decision making process happening in the house and to acknowledge the authority of their children, daughter in laws and grand-children. So, to live happily with their children they need to make compromises and adjust in the situation which is quite often disrespect for them. Most of the time they did not want to do all these things as in our culture and society elders have an important role in households affairs but changing mindset of the society forced them to make their decision to go at a place where they can enjoy their respect without feeling any alienation and where their own will matters and there are no more compromises to made. In my interviews I found out that most of the added people are feeling themselves as a second citizen and they feel that society has left them alone and now it’s at a distant. Aged are now more dependent on their family and they feel more helpless. Due to changing societal trends they feel worthless, unwanted and alienated and they are treated as a burden in their society. They think their opinions are treated as interference and they just have to go with the flow. For Example, One of the interviewee stated that even while watching television, which is the core entertainment for time pass, they don’t have the authority to tune into their desired channel and their grandchildren have complete control over that. He stated that, ‘Aj kal tou bachay hi kaboo nahin atay. Tv bhi dekhna ho tou unki merzi dekhni peti hay or agar kuch keh do tou Allah Tauba. (In these days, children are not under control. You have to depend upon their choice even if you have to watch Television. And in case, we ask them, they get really angry). So, it’s not only the reason of mistreatment or behavior of children there are many other reasons which compel the old age people to move in an old house. One of the major reasons is to maintain their dignity and self-respect which in my opinion every person in the society wants to maintain. I compared my above mentioned findings with a study which sowed the results of survey and interviews conducted in Indian Gujarat. According to that study, 30 percent of the individuals said that people should stay where they have self-respect. 35 percent said that if children and households are affectionate, then one should go for family living otherwise they should go for old house without any other though.1 The article, Attitudes towards Old Age: A Study of the Self-Image of Aged by Philip O. Sijuwade, attempts to find out the societal image of the old ones. One 85-year-old respondent said he was made to make his own tea, wash his clothes. While he lived with his son and daughter in law he did not dine with them and had to eat what was left over. This abuse he felt was worse than verbal abuse. Other respondents dated that felt that their helplessness was exploited. They were forced to exist without a voice and freedom, and their dignity was denied. They were deprived of any autonomy. A stereotype is a thought that may be adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things, but that belief may or may not accurately reflect reality. Stereotypes about an individual’s group, which can be shaped as either positive or negative, elicit a variety of emotions. In modern society, a strong contradiction exists since there is low level of interaction between younger and older persons. A huge gap is developed between young and old generations which have created stereotypes in both generations and they have created their own image of each other. Societal trends have also played their role to build stereotypes as now at local or community level the interaction between young and old is rare and people like to sit in homes rather than going out and interact with other people. Due to this a strong contradiction exists within a society and a precieved image of older ones is prevailing based on the subjective views. Before going to old house and interviewing old generation I also had some perceptions regarding old generation which were like chronological age, ill health, physical and mental distortion but the situation was quite different. They had their own perspectives of the ‘selves’. A 72 years old person, Mr. Ayub, just returned from the morning walk, responded in this regard ‘logon nay hamain keh keh k boorha ker dia hy. Allah ka shuker hay mujhay kisi kisam ki bhi bimari nahin. Apnay kaam khud kerta hu or kabhi kisi ka sahara lenay ki zrurat nahin peri’ (People have created a perception of us being old. Thanks to God, I have no health problems. I do my own work and avoid help from others).
Stereotypes most of the times lead to discrimination against the aged. Ageism” termed by Butler (1999) was described as a process of systematic discrimination and stereotyping of the aged. Ageism’s negative image includes a behavioral expectation of forgetful, intellectually rigid, unproductive, asexual and narrow minded. Ageism could be intentional or unintentional. In our society, cultural stereotypes exists which terms youth as beautiful, energetic, lively, or strong etc. All the same, old age is characterized as bad health, free, physical or mental incapability, decreased freedom of movement, desire to take rest etc. anyhow, my findings are well supported by respondents views as given in the article ‘Attitudes towards old age’ in response to such stereotypical conceptions, A 95 year old man stated2 that ‘at his age one could be nothing else but old. ’Another 85 year old respondent answered to such stereotypical approaches ‘there was no question of consideration of old age, it was a graceful acceptance’. Another person described himself as physically old but not mentally. Conclusion
To conclude, my research work covered the age segregation based on stereotypes and social isolation. Nothing could be generalized about it but trends in society have old ones feeling marginalized on this earth. It can vary on according to personal background and situation. In some cases, older ones are forced to live in a residentially segregated area whereas in other cases, aged people are themselves willing to have such segregation. The reasons for which older ones preferred institutional living arrangement are for preservation of dignity and respect, peace of mind, avoidance of familial conflict along with the provision by fulfillment of all basic needs, unwillingness to depend on family members on economic and social basis.
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