Old Age Homes and the Muslim Community

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Old Age Homes and the Muslim Community

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Establishing Old Age Homes is against Islamic ethos, and they are the products of the modern Western society’ is an argument that is commonly advanced. Muslim society treats this subject as taboo since Islam considers the elderly parents as an integral part of the family and the children are expected to take care of their parents when they reach old age. The Holy Qur’an says: “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and do good to parents. If either of them or both reach old age, do not say to them ‘uff’ (a word of anger or contempt), and do not scold them. And address them with respectful words, and submit yourself before them in humility out of compassion and say, ‘My Lord, be merciful to them as they have brought me up in my childhood.” (Surah Bani Israil: 17, verse 23-24).Ahadees tell us that paradise lies beneath the feet of the mother and the father is the gate of paradise. Thus, when the parents become old, infirm, helpless, and even sick, it becomes the bounden duty of the children to take care of them. This explains why historically Muslims were not very keen on establishing Old Age Homes but gave more emphasis on establishing orphanages.

While there is no denying the truth of these arguments, modern life has thrown up new challenges which cannot be overlooked. Due to increased life expectancy, the population of elderly citizens has increased. The children of many such parents have migrated not only to other cities, but to other countries too and the parents suffer from Empty Nest Syndro me. The joint family system had some members who could take care of the elder members. But in a nuclear family with both the men and women employed in grueling jobs and the grand children having no free time from their studies, who is there to take care of the aged parents? A grandmother is welcome so long as she can take care of the grandchildren. If the parents have chronic diseases, the problem is multiplied. There may also be senior citizens who have no children, or the son/daughter has pre-deceased them. In all such cases, staying in an Old Age Home is the only option before them.

Instances of children throwing their parents out of the house are very rare, but they do really exist. There are also instances where the daughter-in-law feels it is a burden to take care of her husband’s parents and the son-in-law also thinks likewise. Sometimes the parents themselves opt to shift to an Old Age Home when they get a feeling that they are not wanted in the house and have become a burden to their children. No relative or friend will take responsibility.

Old Age Homes in India
In the year 1840, The Friend in Need Society of Madras was the first voluntary organization to devote itself to the care of the aged. It was followed by Little Sisters of the Poor in 1882 at Calcutta. The first Old Age Home in India was established in Thrissur, Kerala in 1911 by the Raja of Cochin and was called Raja Varma Old Age Home. Currently, it is estimated that there are 728 old age homes in India which are mostly established by NGO’s. Almost half of these old age homes are free of cost while the rest have a pay and stay facility.

Muslim Managed Old Aged Homes in Karnataka
As far as I am aware, no Muslim-run Old Age Home existed in Karnataka till the late 20th century. The shelter-less-aged Muslims stayed in Christian-runinstitutions and breathed their last there. The Millat Management Society of India led by the late Dr. Salaam Musheer and his team took the pioneering step by establishing an old age home named Buzurgon ka Ghar at Kolar in the year 1989. In the year 2010, Mr. Mohammed Farooq established Ashiana Old Age Home in Devanahalli Taluk, Bangalore (Rural)under the banner of the Al-Aman Educational & Welfare Trust. I had the opportunity of visiting this institution which provides free residential accommodation for 50 aged men and women at present and heard their sob stories before they landed up in Ashiana. They told me that now they have peace of mind and have facilities for performing salat and other religious duties. All their needs are taken care of. Just before Eid-ulFitr, the residents of Ashiana were taken to a shoe shop to select the shoes of their choice. It is these small gestures which bring a glow to their faces. Those who arranged this deserve to be complimented.

At Udayagiri in Mysore City, the Mysore Old Age Home was established in the year 2019. This ambitious project in Mysore is committed to rehabilitating the destitute and abandoned old men and women. The residents of this institution with whom I met and interacted were grateful for the shelter provided and told me that the management not only takes care of their day-to-day needs but also provides medical treatment to those who are sick.

Five Star Old Age Homes
There are charity-based free Old Age Homes and also those who charge for the facilities. Rich-agedpersons or those who have rich children who are settled abroad, do not mind paying hefty amounts in return for luxurious living. Such institutions provide good meals, healthcare, housekeeping and laundry, activities and entertainment, safety, and security. Many such posh old age homes also take care that the inmates do not feel lonely and arrange games, visit malls, gardens, and temples and ensure that they are provided with a thriving community life.

Trending in India is the Senior Citizen Homes/ Apartments/Villas with clubhouse, games room, mini cinema theatre, library, indoor and outdoor dining, yoga room, ayurvedic treatment center and round-the-clock medical care.

Charity-Based Muslim OAH Needs Support
Muslim-managed old age homes do not boast such facilities. But the quality of life for those in the evening of their lives needs to be improved with the help of philanthropists and donors. Some issues like privacy can be addressed with the better inflow of funds. To lead a community life, the residents are provided with beds in an open hall, but sometimes the inmates need privacy and private space. Corporate financing can provide better buildings, landscaping, better amenities, better accommodation, and well-maintained toilets. Old age homes should provide social, cultural, and permissible entertainment for the inmates. Muslim society should evince interest in such institutions.

Government Schemes
The Government of India has in the year 2007 enacted “The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and senior citizens Act” which makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents by way of a monthly allowance. But the moot question is do we need an Act to take care of our parents? The younger generation needs to be sensitized to treat the elderly in their lives as an asset. Even according to the “National Policy for Senior Citizens”, institutional care for senior citizens “should be seen as a last resort”. The Integrated Programme for Senior Citizens (IPSrC) is a Central Government scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to improve the quality of life of the old-age population in the country. Under this programme, the government grants financial assistance to eligible NGO’s and institutions to run various old age homes, daycare centres Mobile Medicare Units, etc., for older persons in the country.

Old Age Home is a blessing for aged people who have no other option. But if we delve deep into their minds, we will notice that they miss the time they spent with their children, grandchildren, and neighbours. For a man who was the master of his house and for a woman who was the queen of her kitchen, it is indeed difficult to reconcile to the changed situation. The young generation would do well not to abandon their parents and grandparents. If they do so, they are setting an example for their children, and it will not be surprising if they too land up in an old age home when they grow old.