In India we a till speak about old age homes as if they are punishments highlighting the neglect of children. The Indian system had a hierarchical structure in which the family elders were treated with deference. The aging patriarch was the head of the family and without his blessings, no major decision was taken. The joint family system offered its support and benefits. Caring for the aged was not a problem. But that was a long time ago
Indian families have long gone nuclear. Hosting and caring for elderly parents comes with its set of problems, but we wrap it in a blanket of righteousness, romanticizing the difficult choices as the best ones. Care of the elderly is a problem we have refused to solve satisfactorily, as we have mired it in emotional black mail and a heavy dose of karmic consequences.
Since we dislike the American system of extreme independence for the elderly, we have to find solutions within
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Our cultural context. Some of us in the late fifties have made up six rules for those times when we will age and become weak in our limbs.
First, we swear by our refusal to burden our children and rule out living with them. Finding the abode that keeps us safe and comfortable is important. Some have bought flats in retirement villas; some have booked houses with close friends in the same complex; some have moved into an independent house that is closer to where the children live. Settling down in a place that enables independent living, offers good everyday company and needs low ongoing maintenance and upkeep, is the first priority.
Second, the children are willing to help and support in ways that would not impact their lives. There is no guilt-tripping
The children about not being at outside. If they are able to plan trips when convenient to them, we will look forward to it and make the most of it,rather than judge them for not being at our service.
If they chip in monetarily, we would accept that without pride coming in the way. We want to throw entitlement out of the window.
Third, we would not overdo the medical facility and healthcare needs. Being fit and healthy is a goal we will not take lightly. We will focus on healthy living. However, we would not spend on invasive “modern” healthcare that hospitalize us and keeps us on humiliating life-support equipment. We will accept palliative care instead.
Fourth, we will seek purpose in our lives as long as we live. We will teach,write, work, serve, participate and volunteer in the community, engaging with younger people who might need these services. Active involvement in the world around us would provide us energy and enthusiasm.
Fifth, we will ensure our assets are put to use by us in our lifetimes, allocating money for ourselves first, before leaving an inheritance. There is no point regretting what we have at retirement and worrying if it is adequate. With a sensible investment plan and a realistic lifestyle choice that matches the money we have, we should do well.
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Sixth, we will focus on giving rather than hoarding. As we age we realize there is so little that materials and things can do to our well being. Into the 70s and 80s this feeling may only intensify.
As we discover the joys of good company, great food, music and conversations, we will see that the best things That life has to offer do not need money or material. Charity must begin when that realization sets in.
My adamant addition to that list: We will buy and use a sleek and stylish walking stick, so we don’t fall.
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Courtesy: The Economic times MONDAY 5 AUGUEST 2019, BY By Uma Shashikant