Abandoned in old age
By Julia Fernandes
December 5, 2011

Yesterday, I alongwith my family set out to visit an old-age home situated on the outskirts of Virar. We had sponsored the day's food for them. The old age home is a good 45-minute drive from our place. Since, the food arrived late at our place, we were intensely worried and felt guilty about keeping senior citizens waiting for food. My brother drove the car fast. Still, we were late. Where we had to reach by 12.30 pm we reached at 1.15 pm.

As my brother pulled in the car inside the gates of the ashram, I could see several old and feeble faces of men and women staring at an empty long table. They were patiently waiting for our food. It was a poignant sight I am not going to forget for a very long time to come. 

Despite being young, I find it so hard to sometimes control my hunger pangs. When I am at home I have lunch as early as 11.30 -12pm. And here, helpless old men and women patiently waiting for their lunch! I learnt a new lesson in patience yesterday.

When we were seated in the office of the chairman, a bell rang. That was the food bell we were informed. The men and women formed a queue to collect their food. We took part in the serving process. When we asked some elders if they wanted a second serving, they eagerly nodded their heads. It was a humbling experience serving them. It is little wonder that selfless service is truly the most gratifying experience. They enjoyed and appreciated the food. That made us quite happy and relieved.

The Home admits semi and fully bed-ridden elders. As the chairman took us on a tour we learnt that the greatest challenge of the old-age Home is the constant medical aid and attention that these inmates need. The Home needs a 24-hour ICU unit to cater to the critically-ill patients, plus hospital mattresses. The normal mattresses gets worn out fast due to soiling by bed-ridden patients and the constant washing of the mattresses.

As we made our way back home, what struck me most was the solitude, the silence of these people spending the twilight years of their life without the warm care, concern and love of their own family members. It was a silence that somehow got lost in the hushed silence of the trees and the surrounding nature.

When you are young and fit, you lead an independent life. As you grow old, whether you like it or not, one does become dependent on others. Some get lucky and have loved ones to take care of them, while others get unlucky and land up in old-age care centres. I came home discovering some hard truths -- the hardest being that the greatest pain is the pain of abandonment in your old age!