Love and care is all that they need
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani
On January 26, 1889, a poem titled “Somebody’s Mother” by Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913) was published in “The Sacred Heart Review” newspaper, based in East Cambridge. The poem, which is 38 lines long and contains 8 stanzas, tells the story of an old woman struggling to cross the road on a cold day. The poet describes the woman as old, gray, and dressed in torn clothing, her back bent from the harsh winter. On a street covered in recent snow, the woman moves slowly due to her age and is pushed aside by the busy and uncaring crowd. Despite her fear of being hit by carriage wheels on the slippery street, a boy stops to help the old woman. He whispers that he will guide her and places her hand on his arm for support. He successfully gets her across the road and tells his friends that she is somebody’s mother. The boy reflects on the possibility of his own mother needing help in the future, and the old woman, or “somebody’s mother,” prays for God to be kind to the boy who helped her.
“Ageism” refers to the tendency to view older individuals as weak and insignificant. Our elderly citizens have held onto their values, beliefs, faith, honesty, and integrity. The author visited a retired professor one winter day. The professor called out for tea and no one responded and he felt awkward. Eventually, a well-educated and haughty working woman, who was his daughter-in-law, entered the room and rudely told the professor that if he wanted to teach, he should rent a room. The professor was speechless. He stated that he was used to these cold comments after the death of his spouse. His children were uncomfortable with his presence and would often become irritated. The daughter-in-law had sold all of his books, journals, personal diaries, and photographs without his knowledge. Due to his orthopaedic limitations, he was bed-ridden. They had also stopped providing him with daily newspapers, which was his main source of entertainment. He had his pension and was financially independent, but he was not provided care and affection from his children. He was felt as a burden on his family.
We will present another case study titled “The Selfless Tree” which will touch the conscience of our readers. One of the authors was walking back from the office when he encountered an elderly man near Malkha graveyard. The man was searching for a tap to quench his thirst and the author offered him water from their bottle and engaged in a short conversation with him.
The man was a retired college principal. He appeared frail and his eyes were sunken. He was originally from Baramulla and his sister was married in Srinagar. She had passed away in 1989 and was buried in Malkha graveyard. The man’s brother had last visited her grave to offer prayers in 1992. However, after almost three decades, he could not locate her grave to perform these rituals. The man’s sister had faced a stressful married life and was a victim of domestic abuse. She had died childless.
The man shared with the author that he had been dreaming of his sister repeatedly, who was asking for a pheran and kangri (firepot) as it was winter. He also shared several childhood memories with her, including a time when she had walked barefoot through the snow to take him to the hospital when he was suffering from a fever. Another time, she sold her golden bangle to pay for his admission fee to a PG program at Aligarh. Despite being mistreated by her in-laws, she never shared her pain with her brother and always wore a smile.
The man then revealed that his current situation was far from what it used to be. He was frequently insulted and abused by his daughters-in-law and sons. He was abused for waking up early in the morning by his sons.So he had to sit in Masjid Hamam to keep himself warm till others in his family woke up. The author encouraged him to stay strong and trust in Allah. He was also a pension holder, but his condition was worse than a beggar.
Both the author and the man met the grave digger who helped them locate the grave of the man’s sister. He offered prayers and wept like a child. The old-man noticed a homeless woman shivering from the cold and he purchased a blanket and a fire-pot for her. She smiled in gratitude, which the man saw as an answer to his dream
The literature suggests that the dignity and autonomy of senior citizens are often challenged in domestic settings due to a lack of sensitivity to their needs and desires. It is important to treat them with kindness and respect, avoiding rude behaviour just because they may have physical or mental limitations.
We must remember that we will all eventually face ageing, and the goal should be to help the elderly maintain their dignity in their later years. This includes allowing them to make choices, such as what they would like to eat or wear, and engaging in activities they enjoy.
Elderly individuals may have trouble managing their personal needs and may require assistance, but it is important not to treat them as children and respect their independence. They may struggle with slower physical movements, shaky hands, or incontinence, but it is important to remain patient and kind.
Senior citizens deserve to live with dignity, free from exploitation and abuse, regardless of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, or physical ability. Aging should not be seen as a burden, but as a reminder of the importance of showing respect and care for our elderly loved ones. As stated in Surah Al-Isra (17:24), “Lord, show mercy to them (parents) as they nurtured me when I was small.” It is our turn to care for them as they once did for us.
Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK