As a country where old age is traditionally considered reverential and a treasure house of wisdom, it might come as a shock that not many are aware of the term called geriatrics.
At least I confess I was ignorant of this till about a week back when my daughter was talking about a relation of hers specializing in a medical subject relating to caring for the elderly in United Kingdom.All she could say was that the name began with a G.
As a journalist she looks up me to know everything and I had to keep up that sham. A little research into the subject followed bringing out facts that may not exactly show the Indian society in very good light but does show a ray of hope.
So geriatrics is the science that deals with the health problems of the elderly just as we all know that paediatrics deals with the health problems related to children.
The problem of after-care of the elderly was not being taken seriously so far because they did not form a vote bank that could be taken for granted unlike the other vote banks. Even in their sunset years the elderly refuse to admit that they are less intelligent than the youth who constitute nearly 45 per cent of Mother India’s population. They may be less technically competent with the latest gadgets but are not ready to surrender in the field of knowledge which they picked up in an age when there was no internet or Google.
The irony of modern life is that better heath care and awareness has given a longer lease of life to the elderly and this is bringing in a host of unexpected problems, besides just geriatrics. The West is learning to cope with this reality and the sooner India comes to grips with it, the better for the social fabric of the country.
We have been quick to adopt the western culture where the elderly are treated like used piece of furniture that had served its purpose where joint families have broken up but not we have not been able to ensure their economic and social stability that the state ensures there.
The result is that this burgeoning unwanted section of society starts being treated like a burden by both the society and the government. They are not eligible for any kind of insurance or health care or loans when it most needed.
And if they try to be financially independent by taking up jobs they are treated like beggars where the payments are always erratic and always a favor instead of giving them their dues on merit.
This uncertainty about tomorrow, in turn,leads to other psychological and medical emergencies which brings me to my original point that there is greater scope for geriatrics than paediatrics in the current scenario.
Actually, given the universal need for such care all across the globe where the elderly are refusing to pop off, the availability of such facilities in India could give a tremendous boost to medical tourism because compared to the West, medical facilities cost peanuts in this country.
By Amitabh Srivastava