Erikson wisely said, “You’ve got to learn to accept the law of life, and face the fact that we disintegrate slowly.” It’s a fact that family interactions foster the ability to support, share with, and love each other. Such interactions also influence family dynamics and boundaries. Family bonding, decisions, powers and cohesiveness build relationships. Such relationships and boundaries get changed over a period of time. The most challenging transition for the elderly is the empty nest, when children are grown up and leave their homes to live outside for higher studies, employment, marriage or even independent living. For children, it is of course a natural and healthy activity to start their own course of life, but that separation often leaves parents feeling sad and lonely. But, coping and resilience are succour to both body and mind. The feelings of sadness and loneliness can be reduced if coping mechanisms are good enough.
Often people speak of India being a young country, which is true, but people forget that India is an ageing country, too. According to the Census of India, the sixty-plus age group has increased from 8% in 2001 to 10% in 2011 and is projected to be 19% or more by 2041. Both the ageing population and family nuclearisation is on the rise, as parallel phenomena. As young adults migrate to cities and other regions or countries, the empty nest concern has started being prominent in India.
Kashmir society reflects many of the current realities. In Psychiatric Social Work practice, we see a dramatic shift of family issues in communities. Even, Kashmir takes the lead in many such social issues. Of course, empty nest is not a new trend here; cases have been observed less but they have existed. Empty nest brings a sense of loss. The absence of children around parents decreases life satisfaction. At the moment, it is sensible for aged citizens to prepare for this life transition. They need to look at it as an adventure rather than feeling apprehensive. Parents and children ought to connect in a healthy way by cell phones or videocalls. Post-sixties for many is a free time, where they can connect with other empty nesters and feel supported by each other. Often the clinical advice is to get busy in small tasks. Supportive counselling or therapy is a lateral choice for unresolved mental health issues of an empty nest.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” (Abraham Lincoln)
—The writer is a Psychiatric Social Work student at Central University of Karnataka. [email protected]