Saturday, January 01, 2005

Centre for studying the aged

A Centre for Gerontology shall be established at the Rajasthan University (RU) by the beginning of the next academic session to enhance the understanding of the aged and their participation in the society. Established with guidance from the Jaipur-based Indian Gerontological Association (IGA), the centre shall be dedicated to research and academics on the aged.

Besides interdisciplinary research, focusing on biological sciences, clinical medicine and social sciences, the centre shall also conduct a postgraduate diploma course in Applied Social Gerontology, which is reported to the first such in the country. Open to Masters degree holders, the course will be spread over 18 months and comprise modules on health, management and counselling for the aged, among others from various disciplines. It shall be taught by teachers at the university.

Another highlight of the centre shall be a six-week course that would help elders prepare for retirement with tips on financial management and adaptation to a changed lifestyle. “A person’s social status changes immediately after retirement, especially of the administrative officers,” said IGA secretary KL Sharma, who retired as the Head of the Department of Philosophy at the RU. “It also changes how you are perceived by your family and has many psychological after-effects,” he added.

There is also a proposed diploma and certificate course in nursing, specialising in geriatrics, and a training programme for para-medical workers dedicated to the care of the aged in rural areas. The content for these two has already been designed by Sharma, who also masterminded the other courses, but needs sponsorship to take off. The IGA was established in 1967, when Sharma was teaching at the university, and it has pioneered research work on elders in the country since then. It also publishes Indian Journal of Gerontology, a quarterly journal printed with support from the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

In 2001, India had about 76 million people living above the age of 60. That number is expected to go up to 137 million by 2021, pushing India to the top slot, above China, with the maximum number of aged in the world. “We still think that elders, like before, are secure with their families. That isn’t the case with the emergence of nuclear families and in the changing scenario, the government and the society have to consider the aged seriously,” said Sharma.

He also had something to share with his ilk. “I have always maintained that the elders should change their attitude and thinking according to the lifestyle. It doesn’t help to be excessively interfering and self-centred,” he said. “They should integrate themselves with the society for often the problems are more psychological than financial,” Sharma added.

One of my reports for Hindustan Times


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