Monday, 10 July 2017



Several years into social gerontology practice in Bangalore, I helped adult children of my generation manage the myriad challenges of caring for aged parents. These long years I had the privileges of meeting women and men across the country about their struggles and successes. To fortify my assumptions, I did a study among the young people and the results were pointing to one fact, ‘when it comes to aged care, majority are clueless and ill-prepared’.

That now strikes me as a glaring omission, especially when this generation goes in detail to the extent of triviality when it comes to many other things. As parents get older, attempts to hold on to their independence is natural but can be at odds with even ‘suggestion’ from the adult child. Elderly parents want to be cared about, but fear being cared for. Striking a balance without hurting the sentiments is not an easy task.

So what are aging parents looking for in relationships with their adult children? While exploring the issue, the participants in a senior citizens group recently expressed strong desire to maintain autonomy and connection in relation with their adult children, mostly leading to ambivalence because both parties never discussed the expectations.

A daughter vehemently narrates her helplessness, ‘ I told my father not to go out for walks and errands because of his Parkinson’s and slight dementia, you assume that he’ll listen. It’s nothing but caution. But his response will be to go out. It’s away of holding on to a life that seems to be slipping away’. This is typical of many adult children.

But her story is also an eye-opener of a trend almost certain to escalate in the future: a growing population of the aged, particularly those over 80’s, a large proportion of whom are kept expensively alive by medical advances but who are often in bad shape. Perhaps a majority of those now moving into old age will also do so without adequate financial support from pensions or personal savings. At some point of time, we all sort of accept that a daughter or son will start becoming a parent to his or her parent. Are you prepared for this role reversal?

Caring for an ageing parent is a wonderful way to say ‘Thank You’ to Mom and Dad. 

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