March 26, 2011
Department of Social Work, Coimbatore
At a national seminar on Second Childhood: A Period of Ordeal or Delectation? conducted on February 16 at the Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya College of Arts and Sciences in Coimbatore, Dr. J. Paranjothi Ramalingam, Professor and HoD of Department of Social Work at Amrita, delivered the keynote address that offered extensive insights into the issue of aging.
“Old age differs from adulthood in that it is a period characterized by restricted regenerative abilities and an increased predisposition to sickness and disease,” he stated.
Noting that according to scientists, the process of aging is determined by pathology, biological factors and pre- and post-genetic influences, Dr. Ramalingam stated that a mix of numerous factors such as marital status, education, healthy or unhealthy consumption and mental health could affect an elderly person’s physical appearance.
“An individual’s physiology inevitably changes with aging,” he emphasized. “Skin elasticity and loss of subcutaneous fat tissue causes the skin to wrinkle. The skeletomuscular system may suffer from different varieties of arthritis, the inflammation of joints and osteopenia. Neurosensory system ailments include cataracts and glaucoma, which affect the eyes, and waning smelling, hearing and taste faculties.”
In addition to these health problems, Dr. Ramalingam also highlighted the emotional, psychological and economical difficulties many seniors may experience. Even though some seniors living with relatives allegedly endure some sort of abuse, these cases seldom surface, he noted.
“The generation gap between the young and old compounds troubles faced by the aging population,” he stated. “This difference in values, attitude, priorities and views, is produced by dissimilar opinions, experiences, habits and behavior.”
Outlining the safeguards enshrined in the Constitution of India designed to protect the elderly, Dr. Ramalingam said that parents who have occupied a family residence could not be evicted without due process of law.
“In addition, the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act empowers an elderly parent to order the children to provide maintenance,” he stated. “In 1999, a national social policy was formed to promote the health and welfare of India’s senior populace.”
Stating that old age did not have to translate into declining abilities, Dr. Ramalingam stated that a peep into our history books would reveal a significant number of senior citizens who have enjoyed productivity and creativity in their advanced years.
For example, the English poet John Milton wrote Paradise Regained when old and blind. Hollywood actors Sean Connery, Peter O’Toole, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood maintained highly successful careers in their 70s and 80s.
Indian politicians Dr. Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherji, S.M. Krishna, Karunanidhi, Anbalagan and others were known as geriatric club ministers.
“Old age is the inescapable phenomenon for a large number of persons in the modern world,” stated Dr. Ramalingam, in his conclusion. “If planned a little wisely, even old age can be another happy phase despite problems of different sorts.”