Straight Bat: Time To Dismantle Concept Of Nuclear Family
By shunting out our elders to old age homes we are taking away valuable lessons sought by the eager mind of a child | Madan Sivadasan D
On Dec 06, 2016


'We two, ours two' and then 'we two, ours one' were the staple slogans of the nuclear family. A concept introduced to put a brake on the state's burgeoning population growth and make it better focused as a consumerist society. It worked and the state's population is now at the forefront of consumerism even as its growth has balanced out over the years. While the concept of nuclear family did succeed initially, knowingly or unknowingly it also played cruel masters to the elderly by robbing them off their traditional place in the family - of story-telling grandmothers and doting grandfathers.

Recently, a middle-aged woman and her husband were arrested for torturing their elderly mother. It was a newsworthy incident, but hardly a unique one. Reports indicate that the elderly are being repeatedly abused at old age homes and still most of it goes unreported. It is no secret that those aged over 60 are considered just a burden more than anything else. They don't produce, they don't consume, and they just exist. Taking care of the elderly too has now become a business with more old age homes springing up in every corner of the state. 

Why did the concept of nuclear family ignore the place of the elderly from the family scene? To simply put it, nuclear family was a Western concept aimed at gaining materialistic inputs in life. Nuclear family as a concept gained foot hold after the industrial revolution with an eye on promoting urbanisation and consumerism. The elderly were avoided as they were hardly productive and still less useful as consumers. 

But the new trend of making a business out of looking after the elderly is no good either. Already it costs many lakhs, even crores, to complete the educational process of a single child and make him/her a 'useful' member of this consumerist-oriented society. The pressure of meeting this expense falls on the income generating group of the population, on who will naturally fall the burden of meeting the expenses of looking after the elderly as well. This would adversely affect the already deteriorating psyche of the general population. And to make way for the emerging young, the elderly are often rudely shunted aside. These 'modern' products of the nuclear family system are never made privy to the role of elderly in a society.
With the state's population growth being at the stage as it is now, the time has arrived to alter society's outlook towards life. In the days of the old it was the grandmother who took up the role to ensure spiritual upliftment in a child. They were the keepers of morality who inspired a sense of wonder into the mind of the child with their allegorical stories. In fact that is what being elderly is all about, to gain and grant spiritual enlightenment. 

Of course, in today's market oriented world spirituality is often an ugly word, mainly meaning pouring money into the collection buckets of different religious sects. But the time has come for the nuclear family concept to take a back seat and for the society to know that the elderly too are valuable and productive members who can ensure spiritual enlightenment to the upcoming generation and make them better as individuals, and thereby make way for a better all-round society. 

By shunting out our elders to the four walls of old age homes, not only are we setting a bad precedent, but we are also taking away valuable lessons sought by the eager mind of a child. Sure the elderly require no place in shopping malls, multiplexes or fancy restaurants, but their place in the family portrait should be reinstated. They should be the guardians of a materialistic society fast losing track of its spiritual purpose. And that is the only way we can sincerely assure our children a better tomorrow.

Madan Sivadasan D (MSD)

Contributor to Yentha. He lives in Kochi but his heart beats for his home town Trivandrum. Absolutely no ambiguity on his views or in his writings
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