Old Age Homes — Orphanages or Summer Camps?

Those are the terms one can use interchangeably for Old Age Homes (OAH) and Retirement Communities (RC) respectively and which are being touted as the solutions for the increasingly greying India.

The concept of elders staying away from families is not new to Indian tradition. As I had mentioned in the first post in the  series,  Vanaprasthashrama is the third stage in one’s life when he or she moved beyond family and worldly concerns to seek the higher meaning of existence. Perhaps that is why OAHs were termed  Vridhashram,  a sort of surrogate Vanaprasthashrama  – where elders came to live a life of peace and contemplation. Even today there are many ashrams in places like Haridwar and Rishikesh where elders go to pursue a spiritual life. However, the reasons for elders going into an OAH are completely different in modern times.

Today far from being dignified Vridhashrams, OAHs are little more than refuges and sort of orphanages for abandoned and abused elders. Mention of them brings to mind images of dreary, depressing and dilapidated places. Loneliness and sadness are etched on the faces of the residents as they wait futilely for their kith and kin to take them home or at least come for a visit. Vrindavan is home to thousands of abandoned widows who eke out their living amid abominable conditions and is a shame on all Indians.

In the light of the above, I am sure all those who talk of elders going to an OAH actually mean the Retirement Communities (RC), giving the entire topic a gay perspective. Built in picturesque locales outside the cities, these RCs are the privileged cousins of OAHs and have a resort-like feel with a salubrious climate, and independent living arrangements. Many offer the services of caregivers for elders who need them, for an additional cost. One RC even advertised itself as a perennial ‘summer-camp-for-elders’. For anyone looking for a comfortable retired life and can afford them, these are very good options, but finding one close to where one wants to live might not be easy. There are many RCs in Coimbatore, Pune and other places, as also pricey senior homes with 5-star facilities in most metros.

RCs make the children feel secure in the knowledge that their parents are in a safe place where help is at hand when needed. And being classy and independent, they have no stigma attached to them. On the contrary, they are slowly becoming status symbols, especially for the well-to-do sections of the society.

Despite the above, sending elders to such homes and communities is a very emotional issue, with strong views both in favour and against them. So much so that sometimes it is hard to have a decent discussion about it without tempers running high. According to the latest HelpAge India survey, 86% of youth consider large joint families to be the solution for tackling the problems of elder abuse. And yet, the clamour for elders moving into one as the only solution is growing in volume. Why the confusion?

Is it because tolerance is at an all-time low? Is it because in a materialistic society, productivity is the yardstick for a person’s worth and an elder is no longer ‘productive’? Is it because elders are seen as interfering, difficult and even impossible to live with? Or is it because we believe that in the West – that model society — all parents get up and join an OAH or RC as they reach retirement age?

It is all of the above and some more, but the most often cited reason is loneliness. ‘They are so lonely with all of us out most of the day and busy when we are home. At an OAH, they will have the company of people their age.’ 

It is assumed that elders are constantly in need of company but it is not so. Many like to read, watch TV, go for walks and chat with others in the neighbourhood and generally remain busy with their activities while remaining in touch with their families. There are so many elders who demur from joining an OAH or RC because they feel ‘being with only old people all the time would be depressing.’ It is only those for whom the world revolves around their children and grandchildren, that feel lonely in their absence or when ignored. But they want the company of their family, not other elders!

Another reason given for sending elders to RCs and OAHs is that youngsters are free to pursue their career and lifestyle without being bogged down by the needs of elders living with them. ‘After all, they gave us higher education so that we may have a bright career,’ they say. Others feel it is payback time for the elders because they had left them in day care as children and pursued their own career. ‘They can’t expect us to care for them as well as for our children. They should be understanding,’ they argue.

The third reason is the nature of the Indian joint family set-up. By tradition this involves living with the parents of the son — the dreaded ‘in-laws’,  while the wife’s parents are left to fend for themselves, if they don’t have a son. This is indeed very unfair especially since families with just girls are left in the lurch. Also, if the parents of the son have done so much for them to earn the privilege of living with them, so have the parents of the daughter.  In many parts of northern India it is still considered ‘wrong’ to live with the daughter, though this trend is slowly changing in the southern states.

While living with the son’s parents is deemed more difficult, it might not be easy to live with the daughter’s parents either. The one difference being that the daughter forgives and accepts her parents more readily. (Saw Piku, didn’t you?)

The main issue here is that it is hard for two or three generations to live together in this day and age with patience wearing thin, tolerance being low, tempers running high and tensions simmering just under the surface ready to burst out at the slightest strain. When I say this, it applies to both generations.

While all these reasons have their pluses and minuses, we come to the all-important reason — it is the norm in the west, as if that society has the answer to all social problems. It was a revelation for me to go through some of the stats and articles on the subject, one of which states that the number of adult caregivers in the US has actually risen in the last 15 years.

In 1994, only 3 percent of men and 9 percent of women helped provide basic care for a parent. Fifteen years later, 17 percent of men and 28 percent of women provided such care. (Source) 

And some more stats from here:

  • 7 million care-givers make up 29% of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged.
  • 5 million of adult family caregivers care for someone 50+ years of age and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
  • 52 million caregivers provide care to adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness.
  • Among the caregiving U.S. adult population 18+, approximately 72% are white; 13% are African-American. The percentage in the Hispanic community is only slightly lower, at 12%, and 2% for Asian-Americans.

So are we following the western model where a large percentage of white Americans are providing elder care, or the model set by Asians and other ethnic groups settled there?

Should elders then move into an OAH or RC when they reach the magical age of a ‘senior’? More importantly, how wise is it to uproot an elder from familiar surroundings to live in an OAH or RC just so that it makes their children feel better?

What if they are fit and active and are living happily in their own homes? Today many people work well beyond the official retirement age of 60, plus or minus, sometimes even into their 70s to make a living or for the pleasure of it. Others get into social work and community service. Women are as busy as the men are, with their own activities inside and outside the homes.

For active and independent elders the regimen of such a community, however relaxed, can be restrictive and claustrophobic.  The familiar surroundings, their routines, their regular haunts and friends are not something that can be given up to retire to some far off RC, maybe in another city/state. After all, not everyone is looking for organized activities and a ‘resort-like-ambiance’ to amuse them or worse, a hostel-like regimen!

In the West, one can select senior homes and even nursing homes close to their family. This makes it easy for family to visit them periodically. But when they are persuaded to move to a far off RC or OAH, visits from their family gets few and far between. It will be one miserable elder who enters an OAH or RC, much like a reluctant child being sent to a boarding school.

Am I against OAHs and RCs? Certainly not. They serve an important need in the society but require a major overhaul and rethink to make it work for all strata of society.

What I would like for elders and children to do is to sit and discuss the pros and cons objectively and then take a call. How to bring around reluctant elders and children is best known to the families concerned. Even elders who willingly go to one expecting something they thought would be available might end up feeling lonely and miserable. And if they have invested everything they own in such a facility, they have burned their bridges so to speak. Most importantly, don’t go by the ads and guided tours of ‘happy’ seniors in such facilities. Check them out with the elders, ask around and then decide. Believe me, there are as many solutions for elder care as there are families and OAHs are not the only ones.

This is one of the things where one size doesn’t fit all. Think about it.

Why, even I have been doing some research (though the very mention of their name makes the kids mad). So what do I plan doing?


Do read the first, second and third parts too.

Homepage image courtesy: www.theguardian.com


  1. […] to my own family and kids about the impending changes in our lives. (Do read the series 1, 2, 3, 4, […]


  2. […] elders increasingly wish to maintain their own space in the series on elders and eldercare (here , here and […]


  3. […] Of orphanages and summer camps […]


  4. All the posts in this series are very balanced. You have been so wonderfully fair to both generations.

    For my part, I prefer having my elders stay with me until they pass on. If that means I must adapt to their wishes at times and indulge them, so be it. The alternative is no alternative for me at all. I genuinely believe that a family that has 3 generations living under one roof is a lucky family. Just as youngsters brighten our lives with their enthusiasm and spirit, the presence of elders creates a platform of stability around us.

    However, for myself I think differently. Lifestyles being as hectic as they are today, I wouldn’t expect my kids to make room for me in their homes. In a way, I am already prepared- emotionally- not to cling. I do believe I would be happy in a RC. In any case I am a loner… always have been. I doubt if it would at all be a hardship. But there will be the question of affordability, of course.

    I never thought of that before! Dayum!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are thousands of parents of my generation and yours that feel that with the tensions and way of life the younger generation is forced to lead today does make it easier for everyone if the elders moved to their own space or an RC. But for all the talk of RCs, there are so few of them available for those who want to book for one. For the rest it is a choice of the terrible to the sorry to the passable OAHs that litter the cities and towns of our country. Remember, I have researched the options? 🙂 And for all the flak a joint family draws, there are so many benefits of living in one, which only those who have experienced it can vouch for. When each knows their place and duty, it becomes so smooth living in one, barring the occasional spat or interfering elder or even an insolent youngster. There are so many families — even where the couple lives with the husband’s parents that are harmonious and happy. It ultimately boils down to the individual family dynamics and adjusting capacity. I know I will be able to live in one happily if it is even decent and offers some measure of comfort and care. How about teaming up, eh? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Done! Come on over. We’d both get into each other’s hair sometimes and drive each other mad! I can’t imagine anything being more fun. 😀 😀 😀


        1. Are you sure? Take a deep breath and think again 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I never say anything without thinking about it first. I’m sure!


          2. I didn’t ask you to think. I said, think AGAIN. I have a Ph.D in driving people crazy. Isi liye bola! Phir na kehna warn nahi kiya 😀

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I don’t want to boast (lest you take it as a challenge) but I sincerely doubt if you can drive me crazy. Apart from other things, I’m a saint and thus cannot be driven crazy. 😀

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Another thorough and thoughtful post, Zephyr. The statistics you share are interesting. I have myself seen many Americans taking active role as caregivers for their aged and sick parents. One of my dear friends used to fly every weekend to a different state to take care of her parents’ medical matters and be with them for a couple of days. Even when she was away from them she used to constantly be in touch with her parents’ doctors and used to take care of their medication issues or even arrange transportation for doctors visits if needed. All this via phone or email. Her parents were most well taken care of in their own home all because of their daughter. She continued to do this for several years, as long as her parents lived. I share her story just to point out that the norms are changing everywhere and no single stereotype describes a society. All depends on what works for a family. And as you point out so thoughtfully what is most necessary is for people to rationally and objectively discuss the different options, without consideration to what will others say.


    1. But Beloo, things are so biased in favour or one generation or another that one lady pointed out to me the other day that no matter what the stats say, she would still blame the older generation for their condition as she has seen so many of her friends being forced to live in joint families. What was more disturbing, she continued, ‘They deserve it even if they get physically abused.’ Sometimes it is the skewed logic of giving tit for tat, even if it is not the same one who is accused of being the aggressor. And as Rachna has also pointed out, ‘log kya kahenge’ is the paramount consideration for many including those of the younger generation when they take any important decision about elders.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Found In Folsom · · Reply

    You covered almost everything, BM. It really really depends on each family and their situation. If going to RC or an OAH is the only solution and if both the parents and children are okay with it, then what’s wrong in it? But unfortunately, that is not the case most of the times. It is either one of them that agrees to it. If the parents have the ability to live by themselves without anyone’s help and have their own set of activities to do, then why push them to move to a RC? Unfortunately, we have the fear of society. We will be branded as neglecting/abandoning our parents. Only if we can ignore and live beyond it, life will be peaceful for both the parties.
    Also like you said, the RCs and OAHs is not a really rosy picture as it seems to be. Now that reminds me to save a lot for my old age. It’s coming soon 😉
    If having the parents with us is the only option, in that case definitely arrangements and adjustments have to be made. It is not worse than abandoning our parents and living with that guilt for the rest of our lives. At least, I think so 😦 Above all, it’s the parents choice, their life and their last years. let them decide what works best for them. Your last line tops it all. 🙂


    1. I just wanted to make the point that there is no one solution to the problem of elders in our country. It is so easy to give glib solutions like old age homes and RCs without knowing if they are even practicable or affordable. We still don’t have the culture of saving for our old age and it is only now that the younger generation has realised the need from the day they start earning. It is simply not possible to afford such care otherwise. You know, a lot families stay together for the sheer economy of it. I remember reading about how children in the US are moving in with their parents to save money!

      When elders move into a home or RC, it is NOT abandonment, only when they are left without any support or driven out or abused enough for them to leave home is it abandonment. Even today we hear stories of parents being left in railway stations and bus stations by children who never come back and have not given them any money either. I remember reading the story of a young couple going into the airport promising to bring back the boarding cards for their flight to London and never returned! This happened in Delhi. I am working on the next one and will post it soon. And start saving for your old age, right now 🙂


  7. Just as i was thinking of penning ‘no one size fits all’ i come to that line near the end.So that is it.
    This problem is assuming gigantic proportions because the age expectancy has risen.Along with it have risen children’s aspirations and taxing schedules–the number of working hours.Till the aged can manage they would like to be independent.It is not easy to shift to a new place in one’s old age.


    1. Blessed are the families where elders don’t expect to be the heads of the families even after their children have married and have their own families to raise. Being detached from their children’s lives is the best gift parents can give their children, but of course not cutting themselves off either. There is a fine line separating detachment and snapping of ties. Dragging elders from place to place is the worst thing that can be done to them, because they need to stay put, for their health and emotional well being. I have seen elders falling seriously ill at the mention of going off to another child’s house when they live on ‘rotation’ with one or the other, if they are uncomfortable or abused at that child’s place. Sometimes I am almost convinced that money can solve the majority of problems faced by elders today. At least this generation is waking up to the fact and saving for their old age.


  8. There is nothing more to say as you have said everything and we are no more nearer to the solution….
    We get one life, so everybody should be free to live it the way they want to, and if the children dont want to live with the parents, we dont need to stigmatise them.

    .I see most of the people talking idealistic things, but when it comes to reality they are not able to do much..its all talk.

    First and foremost thing is finances, one should manage them and thenLoneliness is always in the mind..If one is physically active, then there is no problem, but if one is not, even then there can be so many things to pass time..this time when i went to hyderabad, i saw my neighbours old FIL teaching helper’s children, helping them in home work….

    Last but not the least, in the old age one shouldnt be finicky about anything be it food, or outing or friends, I think that we have done everything in our youth, now is the time to take stock of them only..no new milestones for us if we are not independent.physically or financially..once older generation gets this acceptance, life will much smoother for them as well as their progeny.


    1. You are talking precisely of Vanaprasthashram, Renu. That is what elders were expected to do: be advisors, mentors and develop detachment from worldly things and emotional attachments.Unfortunately consumerism and materialistic society deifies youth and enjoyment more than detachment with the result that elders today compete with youngsters, want to prove they are as good as them in everything and above all hold on to power and authority even when they are not needed or wanted. And when they want to be detached, they are dragged back by the very children who see them as impediments, to care for their families. As Sandhya has pointed out in her comment on the earlier post, many elders end up doing these things without being able to exercise any authorirty making them mere housekeepers and babysitters.

      So we have conflicts. So what should they do? Children need not live with their parents nor have them live with them, but then, they should also insist on seeing that they don’t bankrupt their parents with their needs including education and marriages. As you say, if even parents began saying that they will live their life as they want, who will take care of the grandchildren and keep house for so many children? It is all ultimately give and take. Neither the young nor the old can demand things as their right but be prepared for some give and some take. Today it is all tilted against the elders in all walks of life and that is creating a big skew in the society.


  9. Very thoughtful post, Zephyr! As Sandhya says, you have covered all the relevant points on this subject here.

    I read somewhere that our Indian society is in a state of transition right now- trying to be ‘modern’ like some western societies, but not able to shed our traditional values. That is why we are in a dilemma over such issues. On the other hand, perhaps that can be said at any point in a society’s history.

    I particularly agree with your view that this is not something where one size fits all. Unfortunately, many people seem to think that what works in their case will work in others’ cases too.

    Yes, it would be excellent if both generations in a family were to sit down and frankly put forward their thoughts, but we find that this seldom happens.


    1. Discussion over such matters become emotionally charged when the generations don’t see eye to eye on the subject. Even when elders want to move to a RC, the childrens sometimes stop them as they can’t see them being lonely there. And yes, it gets lonely in such places unless you are the kind to enjoy their organised activities or are jet setter who doesn’t stay there permanently. Of course some people like the solitude and use it for spiritual advancement and contemplation. They are the happiest in RCs if you ask me. With nothing to expect from the world they can work towards the higher life.

      We cite the example of the west when we want to junk our own traditions for being backward. And they, having tried the modern ideas are junking those to return to the old fashioned ways for whatever reason. For instance, the reason so many people are taking care of their elders instead of sending them to OAHs there is because of the costs involved in those places which are not covered by social security or their pension funds. And already in India, these RCs are only catering to the rich and NRIs. Only Coimbatore has RCs which are affordable and only some of them are good at those prices.


  10. At this fast age, taking care of very elderly parents is not easy for the children. One income is n
    ot enough for the youngsters to come up in life with all the luxuries. Anyway, until the parents are fit, they will take care of the grand children, like taking them to school, feeding them etc. even there, the youngsters don’t like ‘the way’ their children are brought up! First problem is language. Nowadays, children mostly converse in English and the elders speak regional language influenced English which is not acceptable to the modern aged children…I see these things in our complex. The elders would love to watch TV, esp. in the evenings. Audio should be loud for them, which is not acceptable to the youngsters and the language in the serials might influence the children, they might feel.

    On the whole, a lot of planning should be there for all, to save for our grey age, so that we can be independent as long as possible. Have insurance which will take care of the major hospital expenses. Stay in a separate flat near your siblings/children. Be helpful when needed and take help when needed. We will copy West in many things but not in this, like going out of the way to help elders and sick people, NAH…did we live as an example for them? Then some hope is there.

    You have covered all the points here, Zephyr!

    Well, I have to tell you about a relative of mine who is in a small town and is a lecturer in a reputed college. He stays with his parents. He has got two daughters and the younger one falls sick often. His mother also had a bye pass surgery and always thinks that she might collapse anytime. Father and mother are very close to their son. So, even if he is very qualified, he refuses to leave his parents and join somewhere else. The parents say they won’t leave their house. His father has got a brother whose daughter is married and stays away. He stays near this son’s house. This son is taking care of his own family and his uncle’s family too…They have got this habit of going to the hospital for small small ailments. This son takes leave and takes care of them. The parents too never think that he is young and has to have his own life too, but they are imposing on him all the time. So, the wife thinks that she has come to an old age home to cook for them and take care of them. Son also says that he is tired of taking care of sick people all the time. And money…Tension is there all the time. No solution.

    Well, old age is not easy to go across!


    1. While there are so many blog posts about elders being a trouble and bother, there are so few about the things you have written in the first para. There are exploiters in both generations otherwise the old age homes won’t be the sorry refuge for so many elders who have been driven out of their homes and young people who are struggling to save some money even while spending on the costly nursing care of their parents who make their children’s lives miserable as you have shown in the incident about your relative.

      I think everyone has missed the stats I have shared about the US children taking care of their elders in increasing numbers. It is a very big jump in percentages over the last 15 years. If their model of RCs and OAHs were so good, why is it happening in the revers? What are we copying from the West? Their failed model? We should mix the best of both and bring out our own model for elder care. I am planning to write the next one soon and then on to other posts 🙂


  11. A big part of the change is thanks to urbanization and job mobility – more especially now when the children are likely to be working outside the country. The shoe, sometimes, is on the other foot when the children want their parents with them and the parents are unwilling to uproot themselves and move over to a different place/country. In places like most part of the USA, such uprooting means a total dependency on the children for everything since nothing may be available without having to drive miles for it. (Not to mention, of course, that they would have nobody that THEY know or befriended other than their children’s own acquaintances, at least initially)

    The pressures that moving and working in another town/city imposes, specifically in tandem with the job being transferable cannot be discounted. The children may not necessarily want to buy a house there after selling off their parents’ house, if any, and what they can otherwise afford to rent (or even buy) there does cause spatial constraints when it comes to accommodating themselves and their parents. The issue of elder care, therefore, has more ramifications and a decent retirement home is an option which can give a comfort level to their children about there being someone to care for their parents in an emergency, when they themselves work in a far location.

    But, yes, these things should be discussed and any knee-jerk reactions about the topic – like abandonment OR lack of affection – should be avoided. But, then, easier said than done, isn’t it?


    1. You have put the problems of parents who find it difficult to live abroad very well. This is true of India too, where parents and children live in different cities and uprooting is hard. My issue is, why force them to relocate especially if you can’t live with them amicably because of various reasons or crowd your living space to accommodate them. And all for what? In anticipation of some problem? RCs don’t come cheap and as of now, only Coimbatore has a lot of them catering to different pockets with different facilities. There are so few in the north and other parts of the country. Add to it, the inbuilt resistance of the parents in northern and even central states to living independently. They feel it is the duty of the sons to take care of them. And of course,as you had pointed out in an earlier post, they spend all their savings sometimes to fund the expensive education of their children and then some more to get them married if they happen to be girls. So where will they bring the money for the RCs? I have heard of many cases where those who have joined RCs based on ads have left after finding the reality vastly different from the ads. Where would they go, if they have invested all their money on a RC? All I am saying is that it is wrong to hold them up as the only solution, which then makes it hard for the one doing it — it can be either the parents or children — to look at other options in an objective and unbiased manner. And if they were the only solution, today so many Americans wouldn’t be taking care of their elders at home — the cost, the problems, all need to be taken into account. For the rest, we always have the orphanages aka Old age homes, that cater to various social and economic strata of society!


    2. Quite true, Zephyr! I agree with that. I started from the basic assumption that the discussion about RCs would largely be unnecessary (at the level of the people concerned NOT at the level of Society where the NEED to enable affordable RCs has to be told) unless RCs ARE affordable to them. So, I was only adding my two bits about where, even when RCs become affordable as well as the best possible solution to the people concerned, issues of expectations – their own as well as societal – and guilt can get in the way.


      1. Thanks for the reply Suresh. The thing I have left unsaid is that when the RCs are not workable or when they are not affordable, the choice falls on one of the OAHs, which as everyone knows are pathetic, well, mostly. Guilt therefore is one of the natural offshoots but justification is the scarier offshoot.


  12. Old order yields place to a new one.There is little point in lamenting at the changing values and family customs.Many of my nieces and nephews have bought homes in RC where everything including food is taken care of.The loneliness part is there but old people should develop some interests to keep them occupied..The problem arises only in those cases where people cannot afford staying in such RC places and perforce are dependent on children.Some lucky few are blessed with affectionate children.The lives of others are pitiable where even their children are not well to do.The problem is daunting and does not lend itself to easy solution.


    1. You have summarised my entire post in so few words, KP! Money does solve a lot of problems in life. This generation is wisely saving for its old age and optimising its resources. Mine is also better, but the one before is still living and suffering to a great extent, without so much money and being stuck in family values. I only disagree with your comment in as much as you have said that the family values are disappearing. Even when elders live in RCs and in difficult conditions, there are so many thousands of them who care and want the best for their parents, their busy schedules and career notwithstanding. And the heartening thing is that girls are taking the responsibility for their parents in the changing social set up of the country.


  13. sumanmaheshwari · · Reply

    Time have changed, everyone is very busy and don’t have time to look after their elders,so they shift them to old age homes.
    But personally I don’t think old age home is the solution, because I have seen few people in old age home with great pain.
    I feel better option will be if two or three family friend’s plan and live together, this way they will be more happy and take care of each other.


    1. You said it, Suman! The co-operative housing societies are often formed by colleagues from an organisation or community and work well even in big cities. But today we find people selling them off to anyone and so the original purpose of growing up children and then elders growing old together has not come about. I have personally seen so many go this way. But RCs are also being built on these lines today, only they should be built in places that would be familiar for the intended residents with good facilities. Old age homes as they are today need to be taken as a separate entity which is more of a refuge than a voluntary residence for elders. Only those who have no support, no money and no one to care would enter one. But the kind of RCs that promise a retreat for elders is welcome when they are unable to run a home or doesn’t want to be a burden on their children.


  14. I do not think that going to RC by elders is an emotional issue now. Every body now feels that this is the best option available to them once their children are married off. So many of my own relatives who are well off financialy feel going to RC at some point or the other.


    1. You are including all Indians in your comment, SRA. As I have mentioned in the post, the southern part of the country has come to terms with them and has a lot of options to choose from especially in and around Coimbatore, the RC capital of India. But as you yourself have said, it suits the financially well off people whose lifestyle also lends itself to that as they spend time with their children traveling to and from one to another at times. Many of these RCs are just dwelling places which have no facilities for assisted living. One had to make one’s own arrangements. Yes, even I have a lot of relatives, among whom is a 66-year-old cousin taking care of my 95-year-old aunt at one such RC in Coimbatore. Money should not be an issue and the language and regional preferences should agree with the elders. If there were more in other parts of the country, one can understand this point. We have more of the dreary ‘elder orphanages’ in the north where they have to seek refuge when driven out or have no money to fend for themselves. The divide — geographical and financial is stark, which is why I have dealt with them separately in the post.


  15. I think you have handled the pros and cons well. But, it takes us no closer to any solution. Yes, the ideal arrangement could be one that comes by after a discussion that both the parties hold. One, emotions run high. I have rarely come across mature conversations on emotional subjects. And there is a very big factor missing here — Log kya kahenge. Log decide the guilt factor that the children feel. Log also decide the hurt and anger that parents feel. These log often include extended relatives. Our society equates these homes to abandonment no matter how good the intentions and their facilities are.

    I would personally not like my parents on both sides to live in a retirement community unless they require caregiving which is impossible to offer at home. At the same time, I would not like to curtail their freedom of living independently. They have a right to decide how they wish to spend their lives. The only biggest concern is failing health. I really have no answer to how I want to tackle that.


    1. As I said, individual families have to come to their own working arrangements and I am sure they will work, are working across the country, if you think about it. Yes, there are unreasonable and reasonable people in both generations where one exploits the other. Oh yes, as Sandhya has pointed out, elders do a lot of work within the joint family, but only their problems seem paramount. The health issues of elders are a concern, but there is no point in jumping the gun. My parents were pulled away from their village home where they had a community and were happy to entertain us all when we visited. Of course, the children felt comforted that they were fine, but they were not as independent as they were back in the village. And no, neither of them was so ill as to have warranted the move. It was at best pre-emptive. I will post the next one quickly 🙂


  16. Again an apt reflective piece. Waiting for the moment when I can get mom to read this and see what she thinks. One of her friend lives in a RC and isn’t happy. And the other lives by herself in a flat and is also in pain as no one calls on her. Both call and talk to her. I wonder if they sat with their children and decided.


    1. It would be wonderful to get your mother’s feedback, Bhavana. Your examples illustrate the points I have tried to make. Sometimes elders also need to take the decision unilaterally if it is in their interests and thereby in the interests of all — joining an RC, I mean. Because many children feel they have failed them if their parents decide to join one. And of course there are those with no kids or with kids who don’t want to do anything with them. Such elders are much better off in a RC and at a pinch even an OAH. Money is very important for such places and when they don’t have it, a charitable OAH it is!


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