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Dr Harshbir Rana answers your queries on personal and social issues related to ageing, elder care and intergenerational relationships


Q. I am a 65 year-old man living alone in a flat in Pune. My wife passed away three years ago after a prolonged battle with cancer. My only son lives in Mumbai with his family. Though I have a good relationship with him and his family, I don’t want to go and live with him. However, I have become very lonely and am considering remarriage. Of late, I have started liking a neighbour with whom I interact frequently. She is 63 and widowed. Both of us need company and care. Would it be a good idea for us to get married?

A. First, please accept my deep condolences for the loss of your wife. You have had a number of life-changing events in the past few years. Taking care of a spouse suffering from cancer and then losing the battle must have been a traumatic experience. Senior remarriage is an accepted reality abroad. However, in India, it has not been a norm owing to our cultural belief that old age is the time to connect with God. The accepted concepts of vanaprasth and sanyaas make the idea of remarriage a taboo, especially for aged women. Nevertheless, things are changing now. With increased longevity, both elders and their children have started accepting the concept of remarriage. In fact, society is also warming up to the idea.

Do remember that your remarriage will be the start of a new relationship on new terms. There are a few factual realties and emotional issues you should be clear about before you go forward.

  • Her family: children, siblings, relationship with her in-laws and how they will react to her remarriage
  • Her aspirations: find out what she is looking for in her relationship with you.
  • Her physical and emotional health: you will be her caretaker and you should understand her needs.

Facts you should consider aboutyourself:

  • Your son: how he and his family will react to your marriage
  • Your finances: your new wife will be a legal heir to your savings and properties
  • Your expectations: what you are expecting from her materially, physically and emotionally (as you know caregiving is a very important part of old age).

After looking at all the facts, if you decide to go ahead, please spend as much time as you can with your partner. Discuss the issue openly along with the pros and cons including which house you will live in, your finances, role to play as stepparents, expectations of support (physical and emotional), financial realities, etc.

The silver years can be very lonely and if you have been lucky enough to find someone, you are indeed blessed. Please remember that some people may judge you or your partner based on your decision.

In fact, you may lose some near and dear ones but new people will enter your life. So make the decision that is right for you.

Q. My father is 85 and lives with my brother and his family. Though I live in a different city, I make it a point to call him every day. However, of late, my dad has started hanging up on me saying he can’t hear me. I feel so hurt and helpless. My brother says he is getting hard of hearing and does not interact much with family members. What can I do to help him?

A. While living away from your loved ones, the telephone is the best means of communication. I can understand the pain you feel when your father hangs up on you. Hearing impairment is often witnessed with increasing age. Also, high-frequency noises are more difficult to distinguish by individuals with hearing impairment. My suggestion would be to visit him and assess if he needs an audiometric test. You can casually do the following simple evaluations as you sit with him.

  • Switch on the TV, play with the volume switch and gauge if your father can hear at a low volume and whether he can hear as you take the volume up and down.
  • Drop a coin on the floor and see if he responds instantly.

This will give you a fair idea if your father has any hearing loss. If this is the case, you can get audiometry done. Also get a ‘speech discrimination score’ done. These two tests should be done along with counselling to get an accurate analysis of the extent of the problem. If he has impaired hearing, hearing aids should help, but it takes time to adjust to them.

Meanwhile take advantage of technology; use Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp video call to speak to your father, as watching your lip movements might help him communicate better. All the best!

Dr Rana is a New Delhi-based social gerontologist and Founder of Positive Aged. Email her with your queries at or write to us at Visit

Photo: Harmony Archives
Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
July 2018