Left-Behind Ageing Parents and Migrated Children

As she looks at her mother’s fading face, she gets stuck with the fear of losing her mother
"As she said apprehensive goodbye to her mother, the fading image of the old mother in her sunset years and fear of losing her striked like a thunderbolt."
"As she said apprehensive goodbye to her mother, the fading image of the old mother in her sunset years and fear of losing her striked like a thunderbolt."Special arrangement

My mother at sixty-six is a poem authored by Kamala Das. This poem is one of the best examples of bonding in humans; especially the bond between a mother and a daughter.

Ageing is an unavoidable phase of every human’s life. An individual enters his childhood, experiences adolescence when he is energetic and has so many dreams. Finally, he enters old age for final departure.

The author is going to Cochin airport with her mother; she looks at her carefully and presents before the audience her diminishing image. As she looks at her mother’s fading face, she gets stuck with the fear of losing her mother. Her mother with a sleepy face and open dry mouth is comparable to a corpse.

Here, the author shows love and affection in a relationship between a mother and a daughter. The poet is hurt and sad and shifts her attention outside the car by looking at lush green trees and cheerfully playing kids representing life, youth, and vitality.

The poet here revisits her own childhood. In her childhood, her mother was young and beautiful. Whereas now her mother is surrounded by the fear of losing her life and that makes her insecure and sad. She reaches the airport to take her flight. It shows departure and parting which makes her depressed.

As she said apprehensive goodbye to her mother, the fading image of the old mother in her sunset years and fear of losing her striked like a thunderbolt. She compares her mother with a late-night moon of the winters.

She feared her mother could die of old age anytime unexpectedly and she would not be around. Her concern was genuine. She is so sad that it rips her apart from inside; she hides her blood tears and wears a fake smile. She offers a punctuated farewell to her old mother and prays for her long life. She says “see you soon, Amma.

The purpose of this article is to evaluate the effect of adult children migration on the health status of elderly parents. We shall share one case study; one of the authors interviewed a widowed senior citizen who was from Kupwara and had migrated to Srinagar.

He had constructed a big palatial house in Srinagar and was caged there alone as his only daughter had migrated to Canada. His remarks at the fag end of life were “I believe it is lonelier here, at home in Kupwara I had extended family and caring neighbors too.

But here I never see a child. Back home I had my friends in the community; we have lived together ever since. In the evening, we used to sit together and chat endlessly, but here it is different. Though I have some friends in this insulated colony, I don’t feel connected here. Everyone prefers to live in his own world.

Now I understand why they say that man is born alone. When I was able-bodied, I had the whole world around me. Now I need company, and no one is here. Not even my very dear and close ones. This solitude is my life now.

That time is gone when I was young and had goals. Sometimes I feel my previous life was a dream. I have no goal, no aim to live. I am just waiting for the final day. I have no purpose in life.”

Increased youth migration, for different reasons, from developing countries that lack adequate social security systems and institutionalised care for the elderly is a phenomenon that is important to understand. When their adult children go away to work, it is not clear what effect there will be on “left-behind” elderly parents. Following the rapid rate of urbanisation in UT of Jammu & Kashmir, a large proportion of the rural labour force now migrates into the cities in search of off-farm work.

Empirical studies from the international literature that examine the relationship between adult child migration and elderly health show mixed results. For instance, a study in Mexico finds that migration of adult children increases the likelihood that elderly parent health will deteriorate.

By contrast, studies in Bangladesh and Romania show that adult child migration raises income and ultimately has a positive effect on elderly health, provided the migrated children take care of financial needs of their parents who are left-behind.

In India little empirical research has been conducted to answer this question and the minor studies that do exist present mixed results. Given this small and mixed literature, the correlation between adult child migration and elderly parent health in the Kashmiri context is still an open question.

In Kashmir today, urbanisation, migration and population ageing are trends that need to be addressed. Therefore, understanding the relationship between adult child migration and elderly parent health is of critical importance for Kashmir today and into the future.

We recognize that there may be an endogenous relationship between adult child migration and elderly health, because elderly health could potentially influence the migration decisions of adult children.

Research needs to be conducted whether migration is negatively or positively associated with the health of elderly parents who are left-behind by their migrating children. However, as elderly parents become too old to take care of themselves, adult children migration certainly poses challenges for their livelihoods.

For this reason, we expect that social security and home aide for the elderly will be important in the future.We grow up, move out of our houses to make a living and in this process, our parents are left alone at home.  Ageing can be difficult, especially when the person who is ageing is your parents.

After a certain age, parents who spent a lifetime caring for their children become the ones who need help and care. It’s completely understandable that your parents might want to stay in their homes and maintain their independence. But there may come a time when a living arrangement needs to be changed for parent’s safety and welfare.

If your parents are old, keep an eye out for these warning signs that are a red signal that they shouldn’t be living alone anymore. They have suddenly lost weight; they are ignoring their personal hygiene; they get lost while going to familiar places; their house is cluttered;they are always exhausted; they have become defensive and live in denial; sleep most of the time and do not show any interest in moving out.

To conclude Parents, often conditioned by their own life experiences, feel that the younger generation over-does certain measures. Some obstinate parents might feel that the steps being taken are too drastic and unnecessary.

They do not bulge from their rigid stand. It is best to fight their ignorance with facts and counselling that will help them understand the measures taken by the younger crop are in the best interests of their mental health.

Dr Zubair Saleem ia Senior Geriatric Consultant and a 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

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