Tuesday, July 31, 2012

OLD AGE WOES - LONELY WIDOWS OF PUNE


OLD AGE WOES
LONELY WIDOWS OF PUNE
Rumination
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Last week we decided to visit our senior citizen relatives and acquaintances above the age of 75 to personally deliver an invitation (though officially you are a “senior citizen” when you become 60 we consider only those above 75 as truly deserving of the epithet “senior citizen”).

We visited around 30 homes of senior citizens above 75 and this is what we observed.

There was only one surviving couple and only one widower – the rest were all widows (yes, 28 out of the 30 were widows).

Of course, we know that women have better longevity and outlive men, but the proportion was surprising.

From our sample, it appears that more than 90 % of senior citizens above the age of 75 are women.

At first, we were quite bewildered that almost all persons above the age of 75 are women, but when we looked around a bit more, in our colony and in a few more neighbourhoods in Pune and, to our surprise, we found that this is quite universally true. Widows greatly outnumber widowers. Yes, there are many more widows than widowers, at least in Pune.

Now to come back to our main story, we found that only 3 out of the 30 were living with their children – 1 widower and 2 widows. The remaining were living a forlorn and lonely life, all by themselves, all alone.

This means that 90 % of senior citizens above 75 are widows and of these over 90 % of these aged widows live by themselves, all alone.

Quite baffling statistics.

Dear Reader, is it the same in your city or is it different?

Lest you think that all these hapless widows have been “abandoned” by their children, let me assure you that it is not so.

In almost all cases the children had migrated abroad (mostly to the USA) and the children were well settled and financially well-to-do.

The children were quite willing to look after their parents and in fact almost all widows had green cards or visas and used to visit their children quite often.

But despite their lonely existence and failing health, these senior citizen widows were unwilling to migrate abroad and live with their children.

Now this really surprised me.

Yes, these elderly widows were quite well-off and lived in decent homes (some even had quite luxurious bungalows and apartments all to themselves).

Only one widow lived in a senior citizens’ “retirement community” (a glorified euphemism for an “old age home” albeit a luxurious one).

When we asked the forlorn aged widows why they did not settle abroad with their kids, they did not give a specific answer but gave ambiguous replies like “I don’t like it there” or “I prefer my independence” or “I find it very lonely over there”.

Now, this last answer befuddled us – how can an elderly aging widow be more lonely over there in America living with her children and grandchildren when over here in India she has to live a lonely life, absolutely alone, all by herself?

Well I don’t know the answer, so if you do know why, please tell us.

Do comment and let us know whether you have observed a similar trend where you live or is it different?

And do tell us your views especially if you live in America or abroad and have your aged parents living alone in India and face a similar situation.

I thought senior citizens would prefer to live in America with their children, enjoying all the excellent facilities and comfortable lifestyle available in the USA, rather than live a lonely life in India, which not quite a friendly, easy and safe place for solitary senior citizens.

Well you, dear reader, please tell us the answers to all that.

But one thing is sure – it looks as if we too are going to be in the same boat when our time comes.

That’s why I have already started searching for a good “retirement home” – can you help me find a good one – a “senior citizens housing community” and “old age home” – call it what you like – if you know a good one, do let us know.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.


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