Support is in short supply for Indian silvers.

Ironically, at a time when even the West is moving towards innovative measures like granny pods to keep silvers close to their loved ones, we seem to have cast our own rich family traditions to the wind.

The numbers speak for themselves. According to a national study by New Delhi-based Agewell Foundation spread across 20 Indian states, 23.44 per cent of elders surveyed—almost one in four—live alone (the number greater in urban areas) and 48.4 per cent live with their spouses, while just 26.5 per cent live with their children or other family members. Living arrangements aside, only 36.8 per cent believe they are financially independent. And most worrisome of all, 62 per cent lack long-term, palliative care, with a majority of respondents citing the breakup of the joint family system as one of the main reason for their woes.

It’s a familiar litany: loneliness, alienation and isolation, exacerbated by worries about finances, security and healthcare. Even more disturbing, the majority of people who do live with their children feel obliged to take care of the house and their grandchildren ‘in return’ for care and support and have to live on tenterhooks for fear of censure by the younger generation.

When did relationships within the family become so transactional? How did we come to this? And why aren’t more people talking about it?

With the general election around the corner, emotions are running high among all political parties and much rhetoric is being bandied about. Tellingly, though, silver advocacy doesn’t seem to be much of a priority for anyone.

It’s time to change that. Don’t let anyone take you for granted—not your family, not the government, not society. Create an extended family with your peers; forge a new support system with like-minded people. Stand up together as a constituency and drive change. Use every forum open to you to address the issues that matter: work with organisations in your community, write to newspapers, post on social media, raise awareness and drive the movement. Demand better legislation to protect your rights, more avenues for financial security, better policing for personal safety, sustainable provisions for long-term medical care, freedom from abuse and safeguards against exploitation.

The time for suffering in silence is over. Speak out—we promise to make you heard.

By Tina Ambani

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
August 2018