I have never been a huge fan of respecting age. Unless the additional experience has increased your knowledge and your application of it, there is no reason for me to respect you just because you have eaten a few additional meals than me !
Our culture expects old age to be respected - unconditionally ! The other day, there was an interesting discussion on my WhatsApp group where someone posted a link where a mother of two sons explains why she refuses to look after her grand kids. If she had just said - "my life, my choice" I would have been far more comfortable with that than the way she framed some of the arguments. My first response was "If it were daughters, it would probably have been different". 'Cos unfortunately, in the process of child rearing, the dreams which get squashed are those of the mother...and rarely, that of the father. I also mentioned that ideally as a society there should be enough infrastructure for reliable care giving so that such issues do not arise.
As soon as I mentioned this, someone commented thus " Everyone gets their knickers in a twist when it comes to women's lib and freedom of choice, but the elderly in our country suffer so much discrimination, prejudice and torture from their own kids in the name of social reasons and cultural expectations. Why are grandparents expected not to live their life fully and in their own terms? Unless they feel so, they should not be forced to take on their children's responsibility. They have done enough and they should sit back and enjoy life. If things are not great between them, they should divorce, if they fancy spending money on anything they like they should. If they are single and fancy a partner they should and if they think their kids are assholes they should tell them to f off"
I replied back saying " as long as the same applies back from an adult child to parent"
Needless to say there was no response. Imagine reading this:
" Everyone gets their knickers in a twist when it comes to parents and obedience. But the adult kids in our country suffer so much discrimination, prejudice and torture from their own parents in the name of social reasons and cultural expectations. Why are adult kids expected not to live their life fully and in their own terms? Unless they feel so, they should not be forced to marry or have children (why the subtle and not so subtle suggestions about biological clock, seeing a doctor et al). Nor take on the responsibility of aged parents. They have done enough during their childhood and they should sit back and enjoy life in their prime. If things are not great between couples, they should divorce - who are parents to interfere and say 'adjust pls'? if they fancy spending money on anything they like they should (why ask them to build a house, save etc etc). If they are single and fancy a partner they should (why comment on the sanctity of marriage?) and if they think their parents are assholes they should tell them to f off"
Most people are still far more uncomfortable with the latter than the former. Sending a kid who can't communicate, to a day care which is not regulated by law nor run by competent authorities is considered far more acceptable than leaving a dementia afflicted parent in an old age home. The helplessness in both cases is the same, right?
The discussion then veered off into saying that there aren't good care options in India, 'cos grandparents voluntarily 'sacrifice'. I tend to disagree. Laws are weak in our land and child care institutions like any other enterprise, aim to make maximum profits - resulting in sub standard facilities and untrained staff. Naturally, the reliance on parents increase. And there is no free lunch - relying on parents come with its own price tag - we all choose our poisons, don't we?
As a society, we need to have far more respect accorded to care giving - and not differentiate between kids or aged parents. We also need to have sufficient infrastructure that is well regulated and monitored for care giving. This will allow everyone to have a far more contended and dignified life. After all, we all have just one life and a fixed time on this planet.