How to Promote Self-actualization and Independent Living Among Elders Often the elderly feel inhibited to go out on their own or are apprehensive of this technologically advanced world.

By Apratim Chattopadhyay

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The intriguing thing about old age is that people rarely know how to handle it. And one is left wondering what the answer is. Is it the confines of an old age home? Is it okay to move lock, stock and barrel to a different city or country to be with one's loved ones? Or to stay in one's own homes and keep their fingers crossed that everything will work out just fine? With the growing popularity of the concept of nuclear families, owing to professional, financial and other factors, the importance of promoting self-actualisation and independent living amongst the elders has acquired a lot of significance.

Extensive research shows that the elders' own home is the strongest bond between them and their immediate socio-physical environment. They feel comfortable and secure there. There is, however, no denying that the special needs of the elderly need to be addressed. The elderly need a sustainable ecosystem with all-inclusive support to help them live in their own homes independently. So, the need of the hour is to set up a system that will not only pre-empt any eventuality but also take care of the needs of daily life.

Building a sustainable ecosystem

One of the biggest worries for the elders as well as their immediate relatives is the unpredictability of a medical emergency situation. Most of the times, the fear of such an eventuality, and not necessarily an actual situation, inhibits the elderly from leading a normal life. How will they call for help should they feel uneasy or feel a pain in the chest or fall down? How will they be able to reach the hospital at the earliest and who will escort them to the hospital? What if it happens at night? Who can you ask for help? Although these concerns hold good for all, it is even more worrisome for elders living alone. Though hospitals are coming up with emergency services, will a panic-stricken elderly remember all the digits as well as be able to dial the phone. Also, how will the dear ones get to know in case a medical emergency arises? These are some of the innumerable questions that need to be addressed.

Facilitating Lifelong Learning

It is not easy for people who have led active lives to suddenly take a backseat as their children fly the nest and their age begins to hinder them from doing many things. It is a tough realisation and often drives people into depression. In such circumstances, the elderly should be encouraged and motivated to live socially active lives. Besides joining regular clubs and communities for social interaction, it is advisable that they join a club that facilitates lifelong learning, which is the best for their mental and emotional wellbeing. Often in the hurly-burly of life, hobbies and passions drop by the wayside; this is the time when one can take these up and pursue them. Such pursuits also help to keep Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia, two potent elderly diseases, at bay.

Providing companionship

Often the elderly feel inhibited to go out on their own or are apprehensive of this technologically advanced world. All they need is a companion by their side—to go out with; to talk to; to accompany them to the doctor or dentist; to help them learn the ways of this increasingly technically savvy world. And you should see the joy on their faces when they can see their child or grandchild on Skype or the sense of achievement when they can use the smartphone without any help. For them it is a huge step forward! They feel as though they are once again in step with the world!

Often people try to find the solution in a 24-hour house-help or nurse or watchman or a combination of these and more; and it does work out for a few lucky ones. But more often than not the lack of quality and professionalism poses a huge hindrance. It is important for professional players with the outlook to work for the betterment of society to come into this sector and help the elders age gracefully.

Apratim Chattopadhyay

Co-founder, MD & CEO of Support Elders Pvt Ltd

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