Fight Cognitive Decline with the Internet

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We are bombarded with information about the harmful effect of internet every day. Is it really a Pandora’s Box? Well, recent studies show that it can have beneficial effects on the elderly population. Yes, you heard it right. At an age when the mental faculties starts nosediving, the internet can help them revive their mental functioning.

We are not suggesting that all the seniors should turn tech savvy in order to improve their cognitive skills. Learning a few basic operations like browsing the web and using e-mail for communication are enough to start off. Once the basics are strong, they can move into other platforms such as social media.

 

Not a one stop solution

Though it is not an alternative for medication or homecare, digital literacy can help in reducing the intensity of issues like depression faced by the senior population. This in turn leads to lesser decline in cognitive functioning. It is correlated with improved memory and better handling of everyday tasks.

 

Coping with the Empty nest

When the children leave home for work and education, the parents are mostly left alone. If they are retired people, things can get worse. The probability for the occurrence of loneliness and depression are very significant. In such a scenario, the internet can be fun as well as informative.

 

Old school ties and other benefits

Being able to interact with old friends and family refreshes memory and provides immunity against dementia to a certain extent in most of the aged people. In addition to this, facilities such as online shopping makes life easier for those who find it difficult to travel.

 

To assist the elders in taking steps towards digital literacy, children and grandchildren can take the initiative. It might seem useless and time consuming in the beginning, but remember that your loved ones will be missing out on a lot of fun that is easily accessible to you. It isn’t fair to deny this to them just because they are old.

 

The Causes of Psychological Disorders in the Elderly in India

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With the rising population of elderly in India, due to rising life expectancy the percentage of the population above the age of 60 is steadily rising. Ageing is a process that affects not only the physical capabilities of an individual, but also the psychosocial aspects of his or her life. To be declared mentally healthy, an individual must not only be psychologically stable, but also be able to use all the cognitive functions and thought process effectively.

In India, due to the changing social and economic realities, the mental health of the elderly is largely neglected. In a typical Indian household, the main factors causing mental health issues in the elderly are: –

  1. Generation Gap-

The race of westernization and the resulting urbanization has severely damaged our traditional joint-family setup, leading the younger generation to belittle the responsibility of taking care of their elderly, and choose an independent nuclear family arrangement to escape from it. The weakening of this social structure has trapped an entire generation of elderly within four walls with no social security from the Government, and no one to share their grief and anxiety with.

  1. Lifestyle Changes –

The ever-expanding generation gap has also brought with it rapid lifestyle changes, that the older generation is unable to cope with. Be it meal timings, choice of food, or quality of sleep, the rapid changes in lifestyle can cause great deal of mental stress in the elderly, which can lead to serious mental health issues.

  1. Loss of Authority and Importance-

Once the head of the family, a parent might expect the same love and respect from his or her children to whom the yoke has been handed over. However, in most cases, with the loss of authority, the elderly are neglected and their requests and wishes are largely ignored by their children. This can lead to severe depression, and resulting memory loss and other physical changes in the elderly population.

  1. Poor Adaptability –

Due to some personality traits, some individuals fail to accept or adapt with the changing lifestyle, and this can often lead to arguments and unnecessary war of words between the elderly and the care givers in the family. This can result in elder abuse by the care giver, which can cause further worsen the mental condition of the elderly.

  1. Bereavement and loss of familiar environment –

Another major factor that affects the mental health of the elderly in the country is losing someone or something familiar. Bereavement or being unable to go back to a familiar setting can cause severe depression in the elderly, which might result in serious mental health issues.

If you are worried about the mental health of your ageing loved one, help is not far. While there are not enough government initiatives in providing adequate mental health care for the elderly, there are online networks like Insighte that can connect you with the brightest counsellors and psychotherapists specialised in handling the mental health of the elderly.

A Psychological Perspective on the Rising Elder Abuse in India

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Traditionally, the joint family setup in the Indian society has protected the social, financial and emotional security of the elderly in the country. However, with the emergence of nuclear families, there has been a steady rise in the number of cases of elder abuses in the country. Most of such cases go unreported, as the victims tend to be protective of their children in spite of the abuse.

There are a number of interesting insights on the psychology behind elder abuse typical to Indian families. The first typical situation is where the youngest son in the family inherits the hard earned shelter and property of the parent. Once head of the family, the father expects the same respect and care from his children as it was before handing over the baton. However, he waits endlessly for his meals to be served, and his requests and wishes are almost always ignored. This causes severe emotional distress in the elder and it often manifests in the form of depression and deteriorating health.

In a survey, two thirds of the adults encumbered with taking care of the aged parents blame their parents for not understanding their everyday problems and struggles, and almost justifies the abuse. The influence of liquor and the resulting financial and psychological crises faced by the care giver can worsen the situation further. The poor quality of living and job security issues faced by the current generation can be contributing factors to elder abuse.

The elderly, once retired from their position of being the head of the family are at the mercy of their children to whom they have handed over the responsibility. With the widening generation gap, there is little understanding between the elderly and the care givers, and the difference in views and opinions further weakens their relationships. Most often, the elders in the family are cornered and isolated in the household. With no one to talk to or share their anxiety, their physical and mental health deteriorates drastically. It is not uncommon to find ageing people talking to the walls in many households across the country.

The concern and anxiety over having to undergo the financial and physical hardship of taking care of the invalid elders, forces the sons, daughters and daughters-in-law alike to seek an escape from such responsibilities. The main factor responsible for this perspective is the lack of adequate Government policies on providing social and financial security to the ageing. Another factor is the lack of any initiative in sensitising the public about elder care, and re-instilling the traditional joint-family values in the increasingly nuclear family culture.

More than just a crime, elder abuse is also a psychological problem, and with prompt counselling, the abusive tendencies of the care giver can be resolved. There are a number of emergency helplines for the elderly, but very few initiatives to cater to the psychological and emotional well-being of the ageing population in the country. What the country needs is a governmental initiative to make psychological counselling accessible and affordable for the elderly in the country. However, there are a number of online initiatives like Insighte, which aims at connecting those requiring psychological help with the best psychotherapists and counsellors in the country.

 

 

 

Bonding with Grandparents

 

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“To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.” (Chinese proverb)

Antique little boys and girls at home who dote on you – you are lucky if you remember having or still have grandparents. While it’s highly likely that you may not stay with them for a large part of your childhood, developing a strong relationship with your grandparents, all too eager to love, will leave you with joyful memories and valuable life lessons. They are your dependable emotional safety nets. Unlike parents, they can connect with you on a deeper level. Any day, they can be your best companions and true well-wishers. With them, home becomes homely, a safe and nurturing space where you can grow and feel loved.

It takes only a little effort to win the affections of your grandpa or grandma. And it is going to be a very special relationship that you will treasure all your life. Follow these simple steps to create a bond or strengthen an already existing bond. Remember these lovely people will not live forever. Cherish them while you can.

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  1. Keep regular contact with them, through phone or letters, updating them on all news of yourself. Invite them for important days/events in your life like birthday, graduation, performance. Visit them if you stay away, on weekends or an afternoon or over summer vacation.
  2. Find out what their interests and passions are. Make your leisure times together exciting by engaging in shared hobbies like gardening, reading, playing board/card games, looking after pet animals, fishing, swimming, stamp collecting etc.
  3. You can talk to them about anything and ask for opinions, ideas and advice. They listen to you closely, takes all your feelings seriously without criticizing and responds satisfactorily to all your concerns. They offer unending encouragement and support to everything that matters to you most. Now you know who to go to for boosting self-esteem.
  4. Since they are in no rush in their daily life, plan outdoor activities with them, like trips to grocery store, temple, beach/park, aquarium, museum, library, a nature walk, a daily hike. You’ll find they have a lot of interesting things to talk about.
  5. Having decades of living experience in the world, they will certainly have some admirable wisdom and skills which you can ask them to teach you. It could be cooking, carpentry, sewing, knowledge of another language or matters of commonplace existence. In return you can teach them something that they don’t know like how to send an e-mail or how to play Angry Birds.
  6. They are a rich source of information about your family history and traditions. It is wonderful to feel part of a large extended family and have an identity in your family history.
  7. They can entertain you with stories, moral, mythical, of their past when ‘things were different’, anecdotes starting with ‘when I was your age’, how they grew up, things they had or didn’t have, how your parents were as children etc.
  8. Don’t exploit them for loving you unconditionally by insisting on satisfying your every whim. Do not overindulge your grandparents or your own parents will be jealous and cut down your times spent together. Give them some quiet hours and adequate resting time. Remember they are getting old and weak in constitution.grand
  9. Be respectful of their beliefs, political and religious. If you avoid them just like that, it makes them unhappy. Also do not shout on them. It helps to foster healthier attitudes to aging and older people in general.
  10. Be helpful as and when necessary. Buy them something they need. Visit them with fruits if they are ill. Do something gracious for them in front of others, they will be proud of you.
  11. Keep photographs, audio/video recordings of your happy times together to cherish when you’re apart. Get them hand-written letters and thank-you notes in return for gifts.