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The Lonely Parent

The Lonely Parent

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This article explores the emotional and practical challenges faced by individuals when their only living parent expresses the desire to reside in an old age home due to feelings of loneliness. The article emphasizes the importance of understanding, empathy, and finding ways to maintain meaningful connections with aging parents.

How would you feel if your only living parent insisted on taking up residence in an old age home? Not because of any callousness of yours ….the reason given is ‘Ekaki‘, loneliness… Here you are, struggling to get through the frenetic pace of daily life, in one piece, trying to make ends meet and at the same time doing your best to keep the people you love and value, close to you, prime amongst them being your parents or parent, as it may be. And all of a sudden you are faced with an earnest plea from your father or mother, to be carted off to an old age home!

Agreed, most of us in our thirties and forties, are breathlessly running from morning till night, managing home, job, and kids, commuting to work and back, and by the time one finds a moment’s peace, it is time to start a new day, thereby making us poor caretakers. Ironically, that is what the ‘prime of life’ is all about, isn’t it?

Our parents, or at the very least, our fathers must have gone through the very same cycle, in their ‘prime’, toiling away at their jobs, day and night, leaving behind aging elders. Did their parents/parent ever ask to be left off at old age homes, out of loneliness? I doubt it very much. Then what is it that we, the millennials, are doing wrong or different? Or maybe the question should be what is different in the present times?0

From what l gather, there was the support of a joint family in those days and hence the elders were not really lonely. Also, one would usually find some feminine figure, either the daughter-in-law or a daughter or an unmarried sister, at home, fussing over the elderly, pandering to their whims and fancies.

With strides in modernity and gender equality in society, families have shrunken, become nuclear and most of the stay-at-home women are job holders as well! Add to that the woes of commuting in a busy city…and one gets the picture!

Hence an aging father/ mother is often left all alone at home, with the household help for company if one is lucky, or in most cases, no one at all. It often makes the elderly person feel stranded and sidelined, though it is nobody’s intention for it to be so..it is all the more true for our fathers who are way more maladjusted to their solitary status than are our mothers, who without fail, adapt beautifully to the new reality.

The men feel out of place without their women, who, in many families, have been mediums and buffers between their men and the rest of the family…after they lose their wives, some men are completely at sea. It is even more tragic in families where the parental figures were so attached to each other that other friendships were either not nurtured or fell by the wayside in the journey of their lives and once one of the partners departs, the one left behind struggles to stay afloat…and busy children, busier grandchildren don’t help their cause.

How do the hapless families cope with this ‘ lonely parent’ crisis then? Old age homes are surely not the answer. No self-respecting, devoted son/daughter will ever be able to think of leaving their father/ mother at an old age home, which is akin to getting rid of something unwanted.

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A tribute to Tagore

While both parents are equally precious to their children, when circumstances bring it down to one, that parent becomes priceless to their progeny, their only tie to their roots, their very identities…and how can something so valuable, be ever cast away?

Finding a middle ground is the need of the hour if one desires all-around peace.

The children and grandchildren must simply make extraordinary efforts to find some time to spend with the elder, while the elder must also make an effort to strike up new friendships in the neighborhood, try and cultivate new hobbies or interests, read books, and last but not the least, appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of the younger generation. Mutual understanding of circumstances and empathy on both sides will surely go a long way in redressing this issue…please remember, we will all face old age one day.

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  • A very beautifully written article that strikes a deep resonant note and chord in each and every one of us. The author has eloquently stated our fears, our feelings, our worries and our rationalisations with regard our parent(s) – something that we will also have to face or be the subject of, when the time comes. Hats off to her not just for sharing these feelings in this article, but also for showing the wide spectrum of her abilities in her writings – the troubles from within, the troubles from without and a humorous approach to a change in a woman’s life. All the while writing with a touch of class and flair that is rare to find. Keep it going!!

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