— By Raj Narayan
The story of human evolution tells us that the ageing or aged were left to fend for themselves. Anthropologists describe this phenomenon as the ‘survival of the fittest’, rather insensitively. But then, that’s how motley groups of hunter-gatherers behaved thousands of years ago when their survival impinged on high levels of fitness. Because, the ability of these tribes to face up to the challenges from predators and rival groups hinged on letting go of those who are of least use to the group. So, they left the old to die or be killed by the predators, thereby creating twin benefits of ensuring safety for the rest and enhanced agility to the group as a whole.
As civilisations became more civil, the aged began to be treated in diverse fashions. There was the all-powerful patriarch that ran the show from behind the scenes. Then there was the loving matriarch whose job it was to prepare future generations of the family. There were also those who listened to their inner voice and moved from a ‘Grihasta’ to the ‘Vanaprasta’ – from contended soul to seeker. All these have been documented in detail in our history.
Till a few decades back, India and other countries in the region boasted of the joint family system whereby families stayed in a large complex with the patriarch handing over the baton to the next in line by way of mere seniority. Children married and procreated under the same roof and as the family grew bigger, so did that roof over their heads. There was no question of the members of the family moving out. The homo sapiens had been tamed!
Those were the days when ownership of land wasn’t directly proportional to a person’s social status. It was more about the family’s status! The agricultural revolution about 12000 years ago created social status. This, in its own way, created societies that went under the name of towns, cities and kingdoms. Each of these had a set of rules for every activity and for once the elderly of the tribe began to feel protected and nurtured.
However, all good things come to an end as did this. Greed set in and people began attacking and breaking up other societies with a view to annexe or plunder. Yet again, the elderly were the obvious targets for being ignored. What was initiated by the agricultural revolution got carried forward by the industrial revolution. And, what followed was a merciless butchering of the joint family system. With the breaking up of the land ownership, family members started migration seeking fresher pastures – just as our predecessors the hunter-gatherers did. Only, this time round it was for desk jobs and fat bank balances.
In India, the trend began post the IT revolution in the late 1990s. Educated children moved over in search of jobs and ageing parents had to rely on their social capital for survival. Money was not in short supply as guilt ensured it’s smooth flow. It is a fact that migration was for a different reason but for the elderly, the outcome was the same!
They found themselves alone and often fending for themselves even as their children sought the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. While the aged amongst the hunter-gatherers had little or no chance of survival, the story has changed for the elderly today. There are no predators today and life must be led, mostly without a clear purpose and often without the physical support of their near and dear ones. Into this milieu comes the services of companies like Winage™ whose motto it is to bring a smile to the faces of the elderly while nurturing their lives. And the one simple way that we believe this can be achieved is through connecting with their past lives. Apart from being a storehouse of information that can provide considerable value to individuals and organisations, these elders have the potential of becoming game changers in someone else’s life. The best way to connect with them is through their past.
And once we jointly explore that part of their lives, several vistas open up for generating social capital out of their rich and vast experience. A retired civil servant can provide valuable inputs to a project that she / he was responsible for. A former academic can bring in a completely different flavour to teaching methods that she used to churn out world beaters. An ex-banker can help the modern business in managing cashflows better. The list is endless…
Tell us if you’ve come across any senior citizen who has made a big impact within your ecosystem
(The author is the Executive Director of Winage™)
(Copyright of all photographs unknown. Came via Whatsapp Forwards)