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

My father is 82. Owing to ageing and severe osteoarthritis, he has reduced mobility. However, his love for travel remains undiminished; in fact, he expects me and my sister to take him with us on our vacations. He now wishes to go on a Char Dhamyatra. We don’t want him to take this trip as we are concerned about his wellbeing and safety. How do we explain this to him without hurting his sentiments?

There is no getting away from the fact that reduced mobility makes the silver years difficult. Further, frequent falls and injuries over the years start taking a toll on physical health. However, every silver accepts their physical limitations differently. While some refuse to move out of their house owing to the fear of falling, some restrict themselves to going to fewer places even as others refuse to accept their body’s limitations. Your father seems to fall in the last category.

I have often noticed that with age, silvers have increased interest in matters of spirituality. In fact, many elderly generally travel to religious places. Hence, I see your father’swish to go on a Char Dham yatra as more of a religious requirement than just travel. In the given scenario, let us consider the following options:

  • A number of religious organisations arrange for senior-friendly trips to places of religious significance. Find out if there is such an organisation locally. Also ask your friends and relatives for recommendations.
  • Many travel companies arrange tours for the elderly, taking into account their physical limitations. Find a company that suits your father’s requirement sand plan a trip for him with an attendant. Some travel companies also have group tours, which your father may enjoy more.
  • You can also plan a trip with your father to ensure a safe trip. For this, you can take the following steps:
  • Choose a flight that offers wheelchair assistance from the gate onwards.
  • Book into hotels that offer wheelchair assistance. You can also ask them to arrange for an attendant for your father.
  • Always travel between 10 am and 5 pm.
  • Talk to your father about where he wants to go and plan a few outings.
  • Limit the trip to a few days.
  • Talk to his doctor before the trip and take all required medications.

It may turn out to be an unforgettable trip with great bonding between you and your father and lots of memories!

I am a 78 year-old widow living in a joint family with my sons in Chandigarh. Being the eldest member of the family, it becomes my duty to give shagun, i.e. gifts, as a token of love during auspicious occasions to my close and extended family members. After my husband’s death, I have no income of my own and giving these shagun is reducing my savings. How can I deal with the issue without coming across as rude or money-minded?

The custom of giving cash or gifts as blessings by the elderly to their youngsters such as children, grandchildren, grandnephews and grandnieces is an old tradition. It has its roots in the patriarchal system where the money was controlled by the eldest male of the family. The youngsters touching the feet of their elders and the seniors giving them blessings in the form of money or gold on special occasions have been a norm.

However, all elders will not be able to bear this financial burden. In my interactions with the aged, this issue has come up many times. My suggestion is this: Have a frank talk with your sons; first, discuss the issue by telling them how you feel, how much money has been spent by you and ask for solutions. A simple way out for you is to tell them to make a gift envelope on behalf of you as shagun. Another option is to start giving a silver coin—it will symbolise shagun and is also inexpensive.

After all, you are entitled to be happy during these special moments. Don’t let society rule your actions!

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: iStock
January 2019