“Old age is not a disease; it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitude & disappointment, trials & illnesses.” (Maggie Kuhn).
Older person comprise of a major portion in our population. Across the streets, roadsides, markets of Pakistan older people is seen lying, working or sleeping and profusely sweating in this hot weather. Whereas at this age they need to be at home but unfortunately they are not because either they are left alone by their families or they don’t have their family support at all. Sadly in order to survive they have to strive.
But who actually are older people? When we take into account the word “Older people” what comes in mind is the aged people having silver color hair, holding stick, having difficulty walking and performing activities of daily living. But the standard and internationally accepted definition is those people having age of above 60 are considered older people.
As globally the population is aging, According to the World Health Organization; WHO, the population aged 60 years or above will double, at the same time as those aged 80 years or above will come to 400 million persons by 2050.
Today we are living in more advanced era. Everyone wants to live independently. Thus in between the elderly people are therefore more vulnerable to be detached from family. I have witnessed many older people who are living alone despite of having their beloved ones or families. There are so many reasons which compel them to live alone. Firstly their family doesn’twant to keep them because they feel them as burdens. Moreover they are treated badly without dignity. Secondly they are forcefully admitted at old age homes. Some are left alone because their children go abroad for higher education, or they get settled abroad with their families. I have seen people whose children are settled at urban areas due to their jobs. But the parent doesn’t want to leave their hometown where they have spent their whole life. Therefore in order to live at their own hometown they prefer to live alone. There are several reasons in the list.
Living alone at such old age is quite challenging. Body’s capability of doing any sort of work decreases. Hence with age there comes so many health related issues such as osteoarthritis, Diabetes, Stroke, dementia, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, vision and hearing loss, Weakness etc. So whenever they require any sort of emergency medical attention, they can’t access facilities in time because of being alone at home. Then they end up in lifelong illnesses. Moreover their children even don’t support them financially due to which their physical health gets detoriated. And eventually they die miserably due to lack of food and medical attention.
I encountered a resident of Karachi Pakistan stated that “For me and my husband it is very difficult to live alone at this age. I cannot see clearly and he can’t walk because of knee pain and head surgery. We face difficulty in going out and as well as in doing our household work and routine care”. Both these husband and wife were socially isolated and they were at high risk for developing psychotic disorders due to depression. With age humans become physiologically weak and with the passage of time handling workloads becomes difficult for them. This is just one examples but the list of examples goes on.
If we make comparison between Eastern and western countries regarding care of the older people there is huge difference in cultural and social norms. In East we have the joint family system; therefore it’s our religious obligation to take care of elderly people at home. Whereas in West they don’t have joint family system instead they live separately on their own or they admit their parents & grandparents at old age homes. Approximately 30% of the 40 million older people in a community are living alone in United States.
More over according to Cheryl Cirelli a writer from Pennsylvania; “the elderly people in Japan are treated with extreme respect. There are families with quite a lot of generations living under one covering. This determinant is believed to be one of the major reasons that the elderly population live longer in Japan. Elder people are in majority as compared to the young people in Japan.”
Now when we talk about care, it is an entity which is essential ingredient in everyone’s life across any age. At the old age people need more care, respect, love and encouragement. Living alone at this age is very tough indeed. Elderly people need to interact more with surroundings in order to spend beautiful and effective time. They need to be indulged in social interactions, recreational activities, indoor and outdoor games, health sessions, according to their level of performance. So here comes the main responsibility of a community nurse or the care giver at the old homes. They should provide holistic care for such individuals keeping in view their mental, physical and spiritual health. It is very important that they should be treated with respect, love and care.
So here lastly this quotation sums up my piece of paper; “A test of a people is how it behaves towards the old. It is easy to love children even the tyrants & dictators make a point of being found of children. But the affection and care of old, incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel ).
About the Author : BScN Graduate from the Class of 2016 at AKU SONAM! Currently working as Trainee Nurse Intern (TNI) at AKUH Karachi. Interested in Cardiology Unit and specially in Community Health Nursing, She hailing for Gilgit Baltistan [Ghulkin Gojal Hunza] .