Feeling Lonely in Crowded Cities

(Sreenath H S)

Grey Matters

Issues of interest to senior people

 The senior population in India is steadily rising. Unlike in the west, where the state takes responsibility for the welfare of the elderly people, the elderly in India have to fend for themselves. Of course, the traditional Indian joint family system and, to some extent, traditional Indian social values do come to the aid of these people in India and make up for total lack of support from Government.

But a host of factors such as nuclear families, rising affluence of senior citizens, the desire among the elderly for independence and personal space have, of late, prompted senior people to opt for specialized senior communes, where their needs are taken care of by dedicated service providers. These communes also, at the same time, provide them with the much-needed companionship that is sadly lacking in regular residential developments. This blog discusses various issues that matter to and affect senior people. The author of this blog Sreenath H S is the promoter of Sree Senior Homes that develop luxury  retirement communes in Karnataka, and promote senior communities in India and provide senior care.

Sreenath H S is also a published author and a public speaker. His published works include Sir. M Visvesvaraya – His Economic Contribution and Thought, Partition and other Divisive Issues, Secularism and National Identity and a numerous essays on topics ranging from literature to littérateurs, law and architecture.


Feeling Lonely in Crowded Cities

Increasing urbanization is making cities in India both crowded and heterogeneous. Social cohesion that once characterized these cities no longer exists. Many languages, many cultures, many different goals and ambitions among the teeming multitudes have turned Indian cities into a tower of Babel, where nobody understands or has time to understand others and everyone is compelled to feel isolated. This isolation particularly affects senior people, who have too much time on hand, but too little to occupy themselves with.

Recent studies have discovered that this sense of loneliness is the most debilitating factor to affect the wellbeing of senior people – a factor far worse than financial distress, arthritis and even cancer. Psychological factors far outweigh the physiological ones when it comes to senior health and longevity.

Crowded places create a false sense of companionship: one is forever surrounded by people, buildings and vehicles and this physical proximity to people and things should logically make one less lonely. But, unfortunately, loneliness is not a physical issue, it is a psychological one. Every morning, when I go for my ritualistic walk, I try to avoid, like the plague, an elderly gentleman who lives right below my apartment and who is always out, walking his dog. No, there is nothing wrong with him. He is, in fact, a well-read, well-travelled, physically active man. It is just that he has one thing that I don’t have: Time.

While I am always in a hurry to finish my walk, go back home and get ready to leave for work, he is looking for people to chat up, to gossip and tell stories of old times, when things were different and the flow of life was sluggish. Mark you, it is just not I alone who have no time for this man. Many like me too are busy to spend time with him, and one can often find him alone with his dog, cutting as he does a sorry figure.

Elderly people live in a world where the pace of life is slow. They walk slowly, talk slowly and eat slowly. They want people to socialize with – a thing that modern cities cannot provide. This leads to isolation of the elderly population and this grand isolation leads to depression. This, in fact, is the major cause of depression among the elderly, and, as everyone knows, depression is a killer. The best way for senior people to avoid this isolation is to form a group of like-minded people of similar age and organize themselves into an active social group. Such a group creates a safety blanket that protects the elderly in more ways than one and makes their lives lively.

But it is not easy for an elderly person to form such a group, especially because of their limited social contacts. It is in this context that senior communes are becoming increasingly popular in India and elsewhere. These communes readily provide the elderly with necessary care, services and, more importantly, a community of like-minded people.

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