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Posted at: Jun 9, 2019, 2:05 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2019, 2:05 AM (IST)

Alive and kicking

India’s ageing population is living longer and better, courtesy a slew of better residential, health and activity options
Alive and kicking

Bindu Gopal Rao

In  India, 30 years from now, the elderly population is expected to triple  from 104 million in 2011 to 300 million in 2050, accounting for 18 per  cent of the total  population in 2050. This would be close to the current  population of the United States (326m in 2018). The striking  numbers were revealed in a report last year by the Confederation of  Indian Industry (CII) and Ignox Consulting, titled CII — Senior Care  Industry Report India 2018: Igniting Potential in Senior Care Services.

Second innings

The  numbers may seem mindboggling but there has been a rather positive  undercurrent as far as senior citizens are concerned, courtesy higher  life expectancy and a better  standard of living. Interestingly, there is a plethora of products and  services that cater specifically to the needs of senior citizens. This has  largely evolved from personal experiences and is helping the elderly  lead better and more meaningful lives. 

Likewise,  the concept of retirement homes and homes designed for seniors citizens  are becoming commonplace. Yogesh Mehra, who is involved in such  projects in Maharashtra, says, “The biggest mistake we make is to call  such facilities as ‘senior living’ or an ‘old age  home’. It’s such a negative way of branding this facility; the users  feel they are on their final journey of life. 

“It  is depressing and makes their children feel guilty. We must understand that society  is evolving and  the nuclear family system makes it very difficult for youngsters to be  around their ageing parents. Hence,  today, there is a great opportunity and need for such facilities.” 

So, today we have co-living spaces,  specially designed for seniors. They could meet like-minded folks, who  are at the same stage of life, thereby creating a sense of togetherness  and community.

Age no barrier

Take  the case of Madhu Singh, a 62-year-old entrepreneur who started to  train on CrossFit at an age when people contemplate retirement. “When I  was nearing mid-fifties,  like most people that age, I started getting niggling pains in the  neck and joints. Our family doctor advised me to exercise and accept pain as part and parcel of growing old. I did follow his advice regarding exercise but did not accept the part about pain being my destiny,” said Madhu. 

 “Instead  I started exercising for longer periods and this time with a purpose. I  came across a person who was doing CrossFit and his fitness level was  very good for  his age. Fortunately, a CrossFit box was opening in my neighbourhood  and, against the advice of my well-wishers, I joined it. The first three  months were very challenging but, with time, my joints started feeling  better and stronger, and soon I started competing  with girls half my age. I started feeling very strong and confident  and, in a year’s time, it reversed all the signs of ageing.” 

It  is important, she says, that senior citizens change the way they  perceive their age and instead empower themselves with the right diet,  outlook and exercise. “Set  small fitness goals for yourself. It is not only you but the entire  universe that is ageing, so embrace it. Do not concentrate only on aches  and pains; rather concentrate on the joy you will receive after a  gruelling session of exercise.” 

For  Brigadier Hari Pant, 78, and his wife Kumkum Pant, 72, life has  literally been a stroll in the park, thanks to their zest for life.  After having served in the  Army for 33 years, Pant retired and settled down in Bhimtal in  Uttarakhand. Since he always had an interest in homoeopathy, ayurveda  and naturopathy, he did a couple of courses at Schumacher College in  Dartington, UK, when he was 65. 

“Seize the moment is what  I believe in and my mantra in life is to work hard and good for others.  I also went to the USA to do a course in agriculture. On returning, I  started the Himalayan Farm Project. My wife and I do not take any  medication and I advise people on how one can live  without medication.”

Tech advantage

Changing  times have also meant that technological advances, especially the  Internet, are working well for senior citizens. Mahesh  Kumar (73), who lives in New  Delhi, says, “I have made a conscious effort to educate myself technologically to be able to do things like bank work on the Internet. I now have downloaded an Uber and a Walking app to book cabs and do not have  to worry about driving and parking. “I  have learnt net banking that helps me in the market trading and keeping  track of my investment. I have also linked my utility bills with my bank account, this kind  of service is very helpful for senior citizens.” From embracing technology to making choices that matter, senior citizens are  certainly showing the right way to live and proving that George Bernard Shaw was right in saying, “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”

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