Senior Citizens and their Experiences

" His mobile number was tried but it was out of reach. Finally, the orderly was sent to his residence, he came with the news that the teacher has shifted to some other undisclosed place.  So he could not be located." [Representational Image]
" His mobile number was tried but it was out of reach. Finally, the orderly was sent to his residence, he came with the news that the teacher has shifted to some other undisclosed place. So he could not be located." [Representational Image]i0.hippopx [Creative Commons]

The mentoring system is the life force of any educational system. One of the recommendations of NEP-2020 is to develop a mentorship system for the benefit of students because a mentor’s presence in a student’s life can lift his confidence and guide him to be more fruitful.

It has been a general observation that post-retirement many eminent teachers do not remain connected with their educational institutions.

They shrink their academic circle and gradually disappear from the stage. With the passage of time new crop of students have no knowledge about the builders of their institutions. We shall present here a case study.

There was an eminent physics teacher working in one of the colleges. At the time of retirement, he was given a warm farewell and vowed that he will continue to share his expertise with future budding scholars. He dropped his mobile number off with the principal of the college.

Post-retirement he made a few visits to the college to deliver lectures. Once he was invited to deliver a lecture, it was harsh winter he reached the college on time but was informed at the gate by an orderly after contacting the principal that the lecture stands postponed because they are busy with a departmental committee meeting.

He felt dishonoured and left disheartened. Many years later one of the physics teachers of that college went for pursuing PhD outside the country on a faculty development programme(FDP) for college teachers.

There was a need for a substitute, in the departmental committee, one of the senior teachers recommended the name of that retired physics teacher who had served there for almost three decades with utmost dedication and sincerity. His mobile number was tried but it was out of reach. Finally, the orderly was sent to his residence, he came with the news that the teacher has shifted to some other undisclosed place.  So he could not be located.

A few months later one of the faculty members of that college received a parcel wrapped in an old newspaper. Just glancing at the obituary section of that old newspaper in the staffroom, the senior teacher was shocked to learn that the physics teacher had died six months ago as an unsung hero.

Alumni meets are conducted, this is a good initiative. But significant alumni skip attending the meeting because of their long disassociation with their institution. Also, one challenge faced by the institution is that they have no tangible mechanism for tracking their alumni, there is no broad-based database of alumni in the institutions, bearing few exceptions. Mentoring by an older person offers exceptional value to young people. This mentoring can take place at a job, informally in social settings, or even through email or WhatsApp groups.

What is the first and most provable benefit for older adults who mentor? Being a mentor helps those who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology showed gains for mentors in “executive function and in the activity of prefrontal cortical regions in senior citizens at elevated risk for cognitive impairment.” Senior citizens who have a family history, genetic predisposition, or lifestyle risk of Alzheimer’s can have healthier brains through mentoring. Other studies connect social interactions and memory exercises such as sharing life experiences with better cognitive health.

Research has proved that mentoring helps in maintaining the mental health and adjustment of senior citizens. As reported in Harvard Business Review, experts say that senior citizens who mentor young crops are three times happier than those who do not.

If they mentor, senior citizens may continue to feel useful and valuable even amid health setbacks. They may feel uplifted by being alert enough to help their juniors and younger family members. Feeling that one has passed on one’s love, skills and wisdom can be among the most satisfying parts of ageing.

One way to increase mentorship between older and younger crop is to invest in multigenerational contact points like public libraries, schools and colleges. Multigenerational connectivity allows them to age gracefully while surrounded by loved ones.

Sharing one experience there is a senior citizens section in a big public library at Maulana Azad Road equipped with a central heating system with a rich collection of rare books and journals on Kashmir history. During frequent visits to this library, one of the investigators observed very few senior citizens visit the library bearing some good exceptions.

It was heartening to observe one of the retired Professors of history mentoring a PhD scholar of Aligarh Muslim University in this senior citizens section of the library. While interacting with this scholar he said he is not my supervisor but has volunteered to guide me without any remuneration or acknowledgement.

The scholar added that this retired history professor is a living encyclopaedia of Kashmir history and has played an instrumental role in my research work.

Children engage with their grandparents (or other older relatives) daily. Sharing guidance about social choices, and work ethics, children receive the benefits of the older generation’s wisdom and experience. The older generations survived vital changes, challenges, and improvements in society.

They witnessed crests and troughs in their life. Placing them in proximity to younger crops means that many of these lessons and values can be passed on. Further, senior citizens should actively participate in extension and outreach activities to ensure their physical and mental fitness. Social media is replete with motivational videos of senior citizens engaged in social services. 

Senior citizens who live alone or in old-age homes or confine themselves to the four walls of their homes often become isolated from society. They feel psychologically defeated and inept. This increases their risks of falling victim to serious social and emotional health dangers.

By actively seeking out senior citizens to get involved in community welfare activities, society can continue to learn to shape a better future with their knowledge and experience. Placing senior citizens in educational relationships with students, in particular, very young students and those in college offer special advantages.

There are good numbers of highly educated senior citizens in each locality. It has been observed that their grandchildren do not like to benefit from their experience and knowledge but rather rush to coaching centres.

Mentoring from their grandparents has three main benefits, first, it will boost the mental health of their grandparents, and children will learn values and will have access to in-depth in-house 24*7 hours coaching.

Senior citizens can also provide mentoring support to children in their locality belonging to socio-economically disadvantaged groups. With college tuition costs skyrocketing and competitiveness rising each day, college students are deep in debt and struggling to succeed; 

here senior citizens can play an instrumental role in their growth trajectory. Relying on retired teachers to give support and advice, as well as to provide context and experience to apply academic concepts to real-world challenges, is an advantage to every university.

This can be achieved by inviting retired Professors to deliver extension lectures at regular intervals.

Young people have to take a lead. Youngblood needs to be infused into different institutions, departments and offices.

However, mentoring and supervision by experienced seniors and retired officials of different institutions and departments would be equally beneficial for nurturing young minds in a positive direction.

The woods are lovely dark and deep;

But I have promises to keep;

And miles to go before I sleep;

And miles to go before I sleep

Dr Zubair is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Dr Showkat is a Senior Coordinator at, 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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