Would you put your elderly parents in a retirement home?
The concept of old age homes or retirement homes is commonplace in many countries. But in our society, the idea is still frowned upon, to say the least. It is almost a taboo; the social stigma is deeply rooted. On the other hand, though, is it not high time that we embrace this idea?
"It does not seem that people are ready for it," opined Dilruba Kabir, chairperson and trustee of Monwara Islam Tajul Islam Kalyan Trust which runs the old age home named Shailan Probeen Nibash. "There are many who are eligible to enrol, but the social stigma is a hindering factor."
But for those who nevertheless enrol in a retirement home, Kabir cites a number of explanations for it. "Different people have different reasons. For example, if someone has been widowed and is childless, he or she may not have any place to go but to an old age home," she said.
"There are also conflicts within a family which results in opting for old age homes," she continued. "Being unable to give enough time and care to the elderly is another cause."
Shailan Probeen Nibash, situated in Dhamrai, does not take any fee from its residents or guardians. Kabir added that limitation of income is another reason why guardians move their elderly to old age homes.
Khatib Abdul Zahid Mukul, chairman and managing director of Givensee Group of Industries Ltd, who founded the old age home named Old Rehabilitation Center, agreed, saying, "Social stigma is there. But if someone simply cannot afford to bear the monetary costs, what can be done?"
His old age home in Gazipur is also free of charge.
He adds, "During old age, people often feel very lonely, with their children and grandchildren not being able to give time. However, in an old age home, they benefit from having others of the same age bracket. Friendships form."
Some residents in old age homes have harrowing stories of how they were neglected or abandoned by their families — indeed a sad reality.
And yet, the paradox of whether to place the elderly in retirement homes remains strong.
To exemplify, Faisal Mahamood, a junior manager at a local conglomerate, says that he is willing to pay a good price and get his 70-year old father to a retirement home, but the uneasiness that surrounds this topic makes it difficult to even bring up the subject. "My wife and I are often not home. I feel guilty that my father has to spend most of his time alone," he says. "Old age home seems to be a good option to me, and I would myself ask my children to move me into one when I retire. But, as for the previous generation — my father in my case — I can't possibly put him into such a place because it would deeply hurt his feelings."
On the other hand, Shaheda Nayem, a homemaker, feels negatively about the notion of old age homes. With the help of a part-time nurse, the 42-year old takes care of her mother and her mother-in-law, both in their 70s. "We always look up to the 'west' and say how families in those countries don't mind putting the elderly to old age homes. However, are the elderly really happy there? I don't think so."
Komol, an officer at a bank, says that he has always lived in a joint family and is unwilling to take his elderly parents to an old age home. "My wife and I are working parents. We do not have any good day-care centre nearby and also do not want our son and daughter to be taken care of by domestic helpers. Therefore, their grandparents are a huge help. Although above the age of 60, they are relatively healthy, and take care of their grandchildren in our absence. This is a huge contribution to the family. But I wonder that if we all settle abroad -- which we are planning to do -- what will be the fate of the elderly in our family?"
Dilruba Kabir of Shailan Probeen Nibash says that it is going to take a long time before the idea of old age homes becomes normalised in our society. "We must get rid of the negative notions that comes with old age homes and learn to accept the benefits they provide," she commented.
Khatib Abdul Zahid Mukul of Old Rehabilitation Center believes that a lot of old age homes will spring up in the future.
Indeed, factors like increased life expectancy and move towards nuclear family structure, point to that. In this day and age, the necessity of old age homes cannot be ignored. But the stigma, it seems, shall continue much into the future...
Location: Old Rehabilitation Center