On separation, Erikson wisely quoted it, “You’ve got to learn to accept the law of life, and face the fact that we disintegrate slowly.”
It’s a striking fact that family interactions foster the ability to support, share and love each other. In proximity, interactions influence family dynamics and boundaries. Bonding, decision, and cohesiveness are family interactions that build relationships. Such relationships get changed over a period of time. En-route, life transitions unleash the challenges. Along the way, the most challenging transition for senior citizens is an empty nest, when children are grown up and leave their homes to outside for higher studies, employment, marriage or even independent living itself. For children, it is of course a natural and healthy activity to start their own course of living but that separation often leaves older parents' emotions and feelings in blue.
Ageing transformations the psychological functions. But, coping and resilience are succour to body and mind. Possibly the empty nest may give place to the feelings of sadness and loneliness if having poor coping mechanisms.
Often people make assumptions about India being a young country. But people forget that India is rapidly growing an ageing country. Referring to the census of India, the sixty-plus age group has increased from 8% in 2001 to 10% in 2011 and is projected to be 19% or more by 2041. Both the ageing population and family nuclearisation is on the rise. As young adults migrates to cities and live all across the region, country, or the world, empty nest concern started becoming prominent in India.
Kashmiri society reflects many realities in the present social landscape. In Psychiatric Social Work practice, we see a dramatic shift of family issues in the communities. Even Kashmir takes lead in many such social issues. Off-course empty nest is not a new trend here, cases were observed less but existed. Deep inside family are myriad issues that create another discourse. Empty nest brings a sense of loss. The absence of children around parents decreases life satisfaction. At the moment, it is sensible for senior citizens to prepare for this life transition. They need to look at it as a challenge rather than feeling apprehensive. Parents and children ought to connect in a healthy way by cell phones or video calls. Post-sixties for many is a free time, connect with other empty nesters and feel supported by each other. Often clinically advised, get busy in small tasks with personal, family, economic and health benefits. Supportive counselling or therapy is a lateral choice for unresolved mental health issues of an empty nest.
Now that the society is changing, and changing fast, we also need to prepare for that change, as a society.
Danishwar Rasool Dar is Psychiatric Social Work student at Central University of Karnataka