Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by aviators and mariners, but in some countries, local organisations such as firefighters, police forces, and transportation organisations also use the term.
My buddy Nayan shared with me an interesting article! It was under a mundane title “Thought for the day.” The writeup was summarised well in the last sentence!
“Don’t forget that while you are busy growing up, your parents are growing older!”
Our biological age increases every second which is known to us. The phenomenon is as natural as a tree grows. The basic fabric of today’s society started to form around ten thousand years back when humans took up farming. Farming meant that you sowed something, which would take a month or two to be ready. So, when you planted, you stayed put at that place. Starting of organised farming was the process of the switchover from a nomadic society to a stable community which is rooted at a site, though this happened slowly. You liked the surroundings; there was a river nearby with plenty of trees! You had your plot for farming and built a shelter. That was home. More people came and stayed put in that area; this was the creation of the village.
Organised society created stability but took centuries to reach today’s format. With stability, came revolutions of a better kind, Industrial revolutions. This revolution brought scientific thinking and research in society. In the last hundred years, there has been tremendous progress in the medical field, treatment, and healthcare. We are becoming a healthier society. The population has grown in substantial numbers. The phenomenon of “parents also growing” is a recent one from the last 30/40 years, at least in India. This problem has been existing in countries like Japan for a much longer time.
As usual, I will blame everything to longevity, improved food quantity and quality, better medical facilities (though affordability can be an issue). Are all these changes bane or a boon? Of course, they are a boon! The only point is that we are not used to them. A few years back a Japanese friend requested me to send some chikki for him to Delhi. Chikki is an Indian sweet made of Jaggery and peanuts. My friend wanted to take it to Japan for his mother who was around ninety years of age. In Japan, they used to get similar sweet in olden days when his parents were younger. My friend shared with me that his father was 93 years old and would go and buy grocery a couple of times in a week, travelling in a Metro.
Coming back to the article Nayan shared with me, in India another significant change is taking place. Along with longevity of parents, the children are travelling to greener pastures in different countries of the world. Some migrate permanently or go on projects for a few years; then get better opportunities and continue staying away from “Home”! Definition of the home has also changed. Children move out of the “Home” many times after 12th grade, so technically they have left home to take up professional courses. Post education, they start their career in India or abroad. At that juncture, the parents may be busy in their jobs and could be in the age group of 50 and 60. Around 50 years back, males died 3 to 4 years after retirement. Now they don’t, which is good news. But this has led to the issues for which Indian society is not mentally prepared. Parents are living much longer than at any time before, and our community is not prepared for it. We do not know how to handle this, and there are no fixed norms. Do old parents live away from their children? Should they live in old people’s homes? The problem becomes even more complicated when one of the spouses dies! Who will look after parents if they become weak and cannot handle their activities? What would be the support system? There is no organised support system, at least in India.
So, the article suggested and shared a story of using modern technology, not for automation but to remain in touch. A group of very senior citizens created a WA group, and it was mandatory for each member to send Good morning, Good afternoon and Good night message to the group at a particular time, allowing for some deviation. Messages made sure that persons in the group are ok. If a message from someone was not received for a specified time duration, they had formed a system to go and physically check with that person. In the story, somebody did not send a message, and his friends rushed to him and found out that he was unwell. They rushed him to the hospital. Later when the son came, they explained to him that providing for is not the only need of the parents, but they need to interact with someone, meet someone when possible. They asked the son, “When did you last talk to your father?” “See, that’s why we have this group. Otherwise, we people would be talking to walls and windows”, the couple said as they left. This was the whole point.
Nayan and I were room partners in COEP hostel; later during the day our third partner, Sharad sent me a story about a lady from Switzerland. In Switzerland, people get sufficient pension for their retired life. But they have a concept called “Time Bank”. The lady, who had retired and aged 67, was helping some people who were 80 plus. When she retired, she took up an assignment of supporting these old people. She does not charge any money. Whatever time she puts in is added to her “Time” account. This “Time” can be withdrawn when she will need support in her older days. There will be someone to support her who will put in “Time” which will get added to the next person’s account and the cycle will go on. What a fantastic way of supporting older adults in need of support.
It struck me with an idea of combining two different stories which are two very similar thought processes. Today our group of college friends are of the age around 70, but at some stage, some help will be needed, so here is what we can do. These are preliminary thoughts but can be converted into a full-fledged system.
- Create a WhatsApp group- use it for daily tracking as mentioned above
- There are some apps available to track the user’s location all the time, and certain people like his family and a few close friends can know where the person is located. (Ok, those who are going meet the girlfriends will also be tracked!)
- I don’t know how far this is practical, but one must have a landline at home. Sometimes the mobile phone doesn’t connect!
- Include likeminded younger people who have just retired. They will be volunteers who can physically take up support responsibilities.
- Subgroups can be formed based on the locations. But the basic system alerts could be used by all.
- There can be a team of volunteers of much younger people who are willing to take up a social cause. They can take it up as once in a month activity. The volunteers can
- Take the elderly to shops, banks or small purchases
- Take them to movies, dramas
- Arrange community get-together for the elderly
- Help them go to local offices
- Train them with the usage of new gadgets and technologies
- Play games or solve puzzles with them- find your way of spending time with them.
- I read one interesting but touching story of an old woman whom a volunteer would meet once in a month. They got very close to each other. One day she said that she wanted a promise from him. He was surprised as she had never demanded anything from him before. He said, “Ok, tell me.” She said, “Will you promise me that you will shade some tears when I die?”
- Give them love and affection.
Your question is right why the title is Mayday! Mayday! It is not an emergency situation, yet. The situation I have described above is the real-life situation, and it needs to be treated with the same priority we give to the distress signal. Else? I don’t know.
Looks like destiny is going to bring Sharad, Nayan and me back together though Nayan is in California and we are in Mumbai-Pune area.
Friends, you will hear much more from me on this subject, in future.