The mornings begin in mega cities like Delhi with intimations of mortality. Before one can cast a cursory glance on the newspaper headlines, pamphlets after pamphlets keep dropping out vying for urgent attention: get your health checkup for a discounted price reads one, get free heart checkup says the other, have you checked your sugar level asks yet another, get thyroid checkup warns another, joint surgery at reasonable price assures one, have you planned for your retirement asks one, know SIP says this one—there is hardly any ailment which the healthcare industry has not converted into lucrative commercial proposition. Financial advisors suggest parents start savings and insurance for their wards as early in life as possible so that by the time they are 18 years, they have enough money for funding their education. How is it different from the palmists and horoscope reading? Drilling every possible phobia- health or wealth related- has always been good business. There is nothing more deadly a killer than worrying in life. Good salesmen can instantly drive any person, elite or mediocre, into anxiety, which may even cause depression if not properly attended to. Such intimidation deprives an ordinary being of a healthy living. Instead of looking at old age cheerfully, you start with worries how you will face the challenges of the advanced stage in life. Is such a worry justified?
I don’t think it is justified at all. There are some aspects of life that need individual attention but others demand collective solutions. Modern age has isolated the individual to such an extent that even the very concept of a family has suffered. Individuals are at real risk whereas the problem is attenuated for members of a family. Money is important in life, but everything can’t be availed by money. Old age care is one such stage in life. If family structures are supported and strengthened, there is every possibility of making old age as the golden age of life. In a healthy family environment, members enjoy comparatively better health and a happier frame of mind. Everyone doesn’t fall ill or suffer age related ailments. Many conditions are just ignored or get treated by simple home remedies. The therapeutic benefits of communication, affection, respect, care, concern, and commitment has not been properly measured. Neglect or loneliness can bring about old age earlier than normal. A healthy family environment can delay it- at least one doesn’t feel old till retirement, which generally is about age 60 years! Good enough for another span of at least 25 years- years of real golden age! Unlike modern times, this is not the time to start a family again though there has never been any bar on it for those who enter this phase once again. This is golden because after investing a precious 60 years of an average of 100 years span of life, there is not much left for the individual to commiserate and communicate with himself, his family, friends, neighbors and people generally. Besides rejuvenation, music, hobbies, sports of choice, reading, contemplation or pursuing knowledge of sublime topics of interest, it is time for giving expression to one’s creativity. There remains so much to learn and so much more to share that the remaining years of the span of life are too short to experience the joy and happiness of the golden age. Modernity has, unfortunately, robbed people of this grand opportunity to attain the highest and purest form of joy and happiness, called Chidanand or happiness forever. It (modernity) has brought about change in individual attitudes and patterns of social behavior. India, which was proud of its Joint Family Structure where 3-4 generations lived under one roof and ate from a single kitchen, has suffered the worst consequences of advancement of modernity. That support system has simply crumbled under the weight of modernity: it is now no more “we” as the unit but only “I, me or mine”. In fact, even the nuclear unit has come under stress as the partners are anything but a family. Idea of old age becomes frightening in such circumstances and the market only seeks such moments of anxiety to strike business deals, be it life insurance or pension funds or savings or health care. But people who had planned their life on these lines are unhappier than even those without any of these beneficial schemes. Many of them seek comfort in the freedom, facilities and family like ambience of Old Age Homes. And yet, they miss their families.
We need to change our life style. We need no intimations of mortality from early childhood. The traditional Indian approach to the different phases of life is more scientific than the present one. The last phase of life is the most valuable part available to an individual and needs to be so nurtured. Irrespective of whether the joint family structure sustains or comes to an end, whether one is single or a family member, one should train himself in such a way that his needs are reduced to the basic minimum in life, his health remains good and he continues to remain mentally active till he breathes his last. To the extent possible, one should make modest provisions for meeting his financial needs in the old age. But society also needs to provide support mechanisms by way of arranging for serving basic needs of the old people. The government has taken some significant steps in this direction which have reduced the financial dependence of the old people on others. Instead of becoming a patient in old age, one must try to remain healthy to the extent that he should be able to walk till the last day on earth. Chidanand gives that kind of energy. The mind of such a person is free, which restores him to good health in spite of the physical changes in the body. When the mind stops worrying, the body survives on stocks of deposits of strength that would have gone waste servicing worries. Now the mind is ready to generate required levels of strength so that one can enjoy happy revelations every day.