Thursday, 14 June 2012

Some thoughts about senior citizens

Date; June 14, 2012
Introduction: With passage of time, every person who is born on this earth passes through different age levels, and a time comes when he or she crosses over to the senior citizen level. It is not possible to always remain young. But the rate with which problems of old age come, vary from person to person. There are some factors on which we have no control, e.g. those due to heredity. Every person should be aware of the expected problems in the remaining years of the life and the need of preparing for them.  The different types of difficulties have to be faced by the persons themselves. It may even be that the self or the spouse may have to live a lonely life, after the death of one of them. It is a harsh fact of life. Many people do not plan the post retirement life adequately, even in the case of normal retirement.  If we decide to retire voluntarily/suddenly, the problems are more, due to the unplanned retirement. Most of the problems are due to physical and mental health. It is not desirable to leave everything to luck and let the things happen. With prevention and controls, we can reduce and delay many sicknesses. At least we should make an effort to improve our life style without bothering for results. Normal life itself is not a bed of roses, but the life after retirement is still more difficult due to different types of problems. But with positive attitude, willingness to adjust to the changed situations with happiness and stress reduction, this portion of the life can also be spent happily.
LONGEVITY: Due to various reasons, especially the medical advances, investigations, medicines, health care and surgery techniques etc. the life span of human beings is increasing, and there are many persons above 60 years age and the number above 80 or 85 years is also increasing, with the consequent attendant problems pertaining to them. Some may even reach or cross one hundred years. But the people are afraid of this life in the later years, due to loneliness, poverty, sickness, dementia and hospitalization besides many unknown persons.  If this elderly population is healthy, it will be considered as a resource and not a burden on the society. Shifting such persons to old age homes makes them withdrawn and isolated. We should make sincere efforts to make the family ties strong and provide the required services and security to them. These senior citizens have different requirements for medicines, clothing, equipments and other things. Some organizations are working for such persons. But new technology should also be used for their benefits.
General observations: Even if we are senior citizens, we should look properly dressed up and present ourselves decently, with feelings of happiness and satisfaction about our past achievements and successes. Old photographs should remind us of our old friends, known people, known things, happy moments and old glory. We may feel that old is gold. We should not get angry on our past failures or be envious of others but take care of the future. All persons do not get in life what they want, but only a percentage of it. Constant dissatisfaction, anger and frustration will lead to early arrival of old age. Body and mind being connected, our thoughts, positive or negative, will affect us. While we are wary of uncertain future events, we are also afraid that we may not be able to make any more friends, due to changes in age and other factors. We may even feel that our future is more or less bleak and that we may not be able to achieve much in any field.  Normally a person at this stage in life does not desire to undergo training in and take up a new work. There is hesitancy/difficulty in making efforts to start new works with a new spirit. In spite of such thoughts, a senior citizen can develop himself, provided he is confident, fearless and courageous. A person of such an age should also have the will and positive and optimistic attitude to learn and develop himself. Age of a person is said to be what he thinks his age to be and not what he actually is. Instead of being afraid of future, we should have the strength of the experience of the past. With passage of time newer gadgets, facilities, technologies and advances in various fields are coming in the market. All these also should give us strength.  These new things help us in improving our quality of life, may be even slowly. Happiness comes only with progressing in life, along with all other human beings. By living the initial years of senior citizenship with fresh learning, exercises, family connections and care, longer life is possible. It is not necessary that with increasing age, many diseases will also increase correspondingly. Optimism and capability to handle tension help in longer life. Every family member observes the old age problems and diseases of their parents and grandparents. Our age will continue to increase and we can’t do anything to stop it. At the most we can reduce the difficulties caused due to increasing age.  But to some extent, it is in our hands to lead a regular and systematic life and make quality of our life better, happy and healthy. It is better not to feel old, keep in contact with the young persons, laugh and make others laugh, avoid disliking or hating anybody. Even if we are doing something unpleasant at present, we should make a change and we will feel the change in our life. We should maintain good relations with our grand children, play with them in home, parks and elsewhere, fill the generation gap and feel relaxed.
When the elderly persons start feeling that they are being considered as useless and unwanted by the family and the society, then a feeling of isolation, frustration and loss of self-esteem comes in automatically. This tells on their health badly. On top of it, the natural aging process is causing the deterioration of health. So they are likely to become easy targets. The pity is that from the position of a giver, such an elderly person comes to the position of a receiver, and at that crucial stage, the society does not give him support. With joint families this problem might not have taken this shape. But now we mostly have nuclear families. At least by a change of attitude, we all can make the senior citizens wanted. At this stage, we should take life easy as it comes and not very seriously. We need not remember or give any attention to our increasing age. We should never think as to why death is not coming. Whatever remaining life is left, we should try to make it full of happiness. We should not become afraid due to someone else’s death or unhappy due to some body’s good performance. What has happened has happened and we should forget it. It will be good for us if we sleep in the night with the hope of a better day. Most of such persons have rich experience in some field or the other and they should be able to spend their remaining life with independence, care, self-fulfillment and dignity. They should get love, care, respect, attention and improved quality of life.
OUR ATTITUDE ABOUT RETIREMENT: Like all events in life, retirement is also an event or a stage, eventual to happen. There is no escape from it. Then we should not worry, be anxious about it, feel unhappy or feel loss of stature in any way in the society. With positive attitude, we should face it boldly, make life useful, joyful and enriched. We should think that there is enough life after retirement and use the opportunities to use our wisdom, knowledge and experience. No doubt the things are not that easy and stress free at present in life, but with thinking and planning, our life after retirement can be comfortable. Even in a family the elderly can do counselling and the family should take their advice. We can plan to do things like this:  Making productive use of more time available with mutual advantage,  Keeping busy and not becoming lazy, Keeping quality and quantity of diet under control, Developing and making our past hobbies better, Learning new skills e.g. becoming friendly with computer skills, net working and exchanging information on various relevant topics and learning , fashion for the seniors,  keeping time for thinking, planning, gardening, for the spouse and for spirituality, tackling problems of male and female menopause and snoring etc., Studying and compiling home remedies for various normal ailments, involving in humour, fun, joy and inspiration instead of being serious and morose, Generating feelings of being good and also looking good, Making safe, profitable, convenient and useful investments/management of funds available, spending money wisely, seeking avenues of earning money by engaging in works in the spare time available e. g. having a second career or even voluntary service, writing, preparing and registering of a will and tackling other legal issues, maintaining a proper and fulfilling relationship with adult children, their families and assisting  the grandchildren, subscribing to and reading magazines for senior citizens which give information about products and services for them, associating with some social organizations and  temples etc., obtaining a suitable job as gainful employment as per past experience, sharing the past knowledge with others who may need it , participate in programmes, keeping important information available handy about hospitals, chemists, travel agencies, tour operators, bill collection agencies etc., keeping contacts with neighbours and residential associations etc., arranging some volunteer(s) to visit senior citizens at their residences periodically to reduce loneliness in life, communicating our needs, feelings, opinion, views  and ideas nicely instead of expecting things, reading information about health and fitness and obtaining information from experts, preventing falls especially in the bath room, backache, eye & ear problems, preserving written/printed material useful for future, getting information available about the discounts & services, arranging periodic health checks & keeping proper records thereof, knowing about the most common ailments in this age group & preventive measures thereof, arranging travels to selected places, influencing our friends in the same age group, commanding respect in the community, making a circle of friends, considering things from practical point of view, participating in seminars,  making new friends, locating new services for house work.
Health Problems: A senior citizen slowly starts having different type of health problems, one by one or together or all of a sudden. Any such problem should be attended promptly, diagnosed, treated, and situation corrected as early as possible.  
(a)Eye sight problems: Our eye sight should be checked periodically. If required glasses or contact lenses, for far and near vision should be used. Periodical testing and correcting the number is essential, so that the eye sight does not get further deteriorated. There are several problems of eyes like dry eyes, glaucoma, redness, tension of eyes, allergy and cataract etc. Eyes being the most important part of our body need continuous attention, care and medical checkup.
(b) Hearing problems: The capability of every human being to hear goes on decreasing with increasing age. The quantum of reduction varies from person to person. This problem may start even from the age of 40-50 years. We may not be able to hear the full range of high frequency sounds.  We may not be aware of this situation and may know only when told by someone else, or after medical examination and testing. But many persons consider this as an undesirable thing, try to hide and ignore it and do not want to spend for and use the hearing aids. They tell their family members to speak a little louder and to hear the TV and radio a little louder. Hearing aid, for that matter is not a cure, since the earlier condition can’t be obtained and also further deterioration can’t be avoided. It is only a means to amplify the sound signals, so as to hear them. Non-use of a hearing aid, means inability to hear clearly, due to which we are not able to talk to others properly, not able to participate in normal activities and thereby feeling loneliness, helplessness and unhappiness. Loss of hearing may also be due to several causes like trauma, overgrowth of bone inside the ear, punctured ear drum or wax inside the ear. Sometimes surgery is helpful here. This may be in 5 % cases. But in 95 % cases hearing loss is due to nerve, viral and bacterial infection, heredity, benign tumour, increasing age and effect of hearing loud sounds of TV, radio, cinema, video, jet aero plane and machinery etc. for several years. Some hearing aids amplify all sounds uniformly. Due to recent advances, different sounds are being amplified at different rates. These devices are arranged and fitted as per the individual needs of the person, considering factors like extent of loss of hearing as per measurement, quality of sound, appearance, comfort, adjustability and budget of the person. Sounds being heard with a hearing aid will be different from those heard by us normally. Hearing aids which can be fitted for both ears are considered better than those for one ear. Another classification is one can be fitted inside the ear (used about 80%) and another fitted behind the ear (used about 19%).  As a user, we should collect full information before taking a final decision but after getting testing & advice from a qualified doctor, instead of self diagnosis.
© Obesity: This is one of the important problems of health. We may reduce our diet to control obesity, but there are other factors also. Lack of food may cause loss of energy and some other problems. Our body should be maintained in consultation with the doctor, without increased diet, such that we do not feel weak and can work properly.
(d) Smoking: Even if one has been smoking earlier in the young age, in view of its repercussions and likelihood of several diseases we should discard this habit at this age, even if it is not so easy.   
(e)Drinking:  Even if one has been drinking whether less or more, earlier, we must make up our mind to leave this habit, which is having prospects of causing financial, health and family problems.
(f) Other general health problems: There are several such problems which vary from time to time and person to person.  Some of these are pain in the joints and limbs, diabetes, Blood pressure (high and low) , hernia, prostate problems (for men only), stone in gall bladder, indigestion, mental problem, heart problems and angina pain, problems of kidney, skin and throat etc., problems caused due to weather changes and various allergies etc. One of my senior citizen friends was injured in an accident and had to be hospitalized for a long-term treatment and recuperation. One day when I visited him in the hospital he narrated this problem. There are restrictions from the hospital side about timings and number of attendants besides limited availability of persons in the family. He used to take his breakfast of bread, butter and hot tea on his bed only, but salt and pepper were usually not available. Tea also would become cold. Perforce he had to partake bread with butter but without salt and pepper along with warm enough tea. He bemoaned that salt and pepper had become luxuries for him. When the chips are down we realize the ground level realities. It does not take much time for things to change in life at any age, either for better or worse.
Other Problems faced by senior citizens: The senior citizens are reservoirs of experience and knowledge and should normally be treated with respect and honour. Even as per old Indian scriptures, respect is to be given to the elderly. But today, many problems are faced by them in this respect. The Government organizations and also some NGOs should take up this work, especially their rights, on legal basis.
(a) Safety: Due to old age and living alone, their safety and security even in their own houses is a big problem, but to some extent, it lies in their own hands also. They should be ever watchful and vigilant and follow some guidelines for this purpose. Problems may come inside the house from any part of the house or outside the house. There are some vulnerable areas. Our house should have strong iron grills for all doors and windows. We should see through the magic eye first and then also, only open the door partially (using a safety latch), not allow strangers and unidentified persons to enter. A burglar’s alarm should be installed and connected to the neighbour’s house. Our valuables should be kept in the bank locker. We should neither boast of our prosperity nor display cash and jewellery to others. If possible and convenient, we should keep a dog. Before hiring a domestic help we should get confirmed references of his prior works done. We should neither allow our servant to have access to our almirah, nor allow visitors to stay with the servant in the servant quarter. We should inform the police, about   the details of the tenant and servant and be in regular contact with the beat police officer. In case of any suspicious person(s) or event, we should inform the neighbours and nearby police van. We should know and confirm the details of plumber and electrician etc. before allowing them inside the house. Important telephone numbers like police, hospital and neighbours etc. should be available for quick use in an emergency. We should keep close friendship/liaison with the neighbours and residents welfare associations. We should get a call bell connection made to the neighbours. The elderly persons should not remain aloof, keep meeting people and should go in a group even for walking. Also inside the house, we need good lighting, so that we do not fall down esp. from the steps. While going out we should wear proper shoes to avoid slipping and also not carry too much load at a time. Furniture and other items should be rearranged in the house for ease of movement. It will be preferable to moderately reduce the number of items in the house. We should keep items required by us every day at easily accessible places. Bathroom is another vulnerable area, where we can keep rubber mats to avoid slipping.
 (b)Emotional: Senior citizens are not being fully considered a proper part of the home, but an obstacle or a problem, due to their reduced physical strength. The elderly do not get their due in their family and feel lonely and hurt. Longer life means more loneliness. Many elderly persons do not inform their children about their funds and investments, due to lack of trust. In this way, they will have a steady source of income for themselves in this period. There have been some cases in which parents have been thrown out of the houses, by their own sons, taking the full house in their control. In some cases, the children are nasty to their parents. Some children do not like the rigid and stub born attitude of some elderly persons. Their flexible attitude will be helpful.
(c)Administrative: Several states have welfare schemes like old age pension for senior citizens, mainly for the lower income groups. But number of such persons is very large. Number of old age homes is also inadequate.  While new old age homes should be started, the services and the environment therein should be made friendlier, to the occupants.
(d)Relationships: Some senior citizens have their son(s) and their families, but due to some problems, they are forced to live separately and a lonely life. It hurts them to the core of their heart when in case of their sickness their son’s family does not even visit them, to make formal enquiries, what to talk of looking after their sickness.
 (e)Lack of a suitable policy: Proper policy should be formulated considering various factors and problems of senior citizens, so that this segment of population can also have a meaningful life and does not remain disadvantaged. Various NGOs should also be included in these efforts. This population may consist of different types e.g. from BPL category, from rural areas, some illiterate persons and some women who are widows etc. With passage of time this elderly population is expected to increase substantially.  The policy should have major areas of intervention included, with stress on their active involvement, providing of old age pension, income security, travel related concessions, income tax concessions, safety and security and other related matters.
(f)Geriatric care: This is of recent origin in India. There are a few organizations working in this field in India, e.g. Help Age India, Age-Care India, ICARE, Geriatric Society of India etc. The elderly need such care and due to their large number, it is a big work. People having aptitude for social work can take it as a career. This work involves contributions from several disciplines. There are some courses available for this purpose. Such trained persons can get jobs in Government sector, NGOs, research organizations, project directors and programme managers in old age homes, day care centres and mobile Medicare units, HRD professionals and managers, master trainers in training institutions, private health and nursing institutes, as counsellors and consultants.

Self help actions by senior citizens: People in this age group should try to use their experience to help themselves and also other fellow beings. They can form and run some associations/organizations and self help groups to render help to the group of senior citizens through physical, mental and financial help. If required and if possible, their groups should have common plumber, electrician and carpenter, a person to pay the bills and to help for works in Government departments. They should have a mechanism to keep their communication alive, by wishing on birth days and also by keeping each senior citizen member informed of the good and bad tidings. They can also render help for development of children in the schools. In this way their loneliness will reduce.
(a) Requirements for retirement: An important aspect is their own planning for retirement like preparation of the will document, health insurance, financial security, investment assistance, legal help and regular participation in community events. The elderly person should keep a cane for support, an umbrella for protection against rain and sun, mobile for communication, identity card and other required items/ gadgets.
(b) Begin life afresh: When we come to the age of 60 years and the stage of retirement from job, we have a feeling of reduced responsibility, free time available, reduced tension and desire of doing many personal and other things which we could not do earlier due to being too busy. From this time onwards, we can begin a new life, even a new career and become a source of inspiration to many others. These activities could be package tours across the world, sports, engaging in hobbies in which we are interested, delivering guest lectures in various institutions, walking schedules, get-togethers with friends and families for partying and socializing in clubs and elsewhere and inter-acting with different persons. If opportunity is available, they should work on advisory boards & trusts as members, teach students, carry out correspondence and involve with events of drama, sports, music & social functions etc. Sitting idle is very difficult. We can have a hectic life, work and enjoy till the end, without feeling the burden, even to the extent that we may find that time is insufficient. Each one of us should do what we want to do. Of course we should also see our grand children, but we need not and should not remove ourselves from the world activities. Our life is the most precious gift of God to us and so we should live life fully.
(c) Medical advice: It is advisable to keep a family Doctor preferably a private practicing Doctor, who should have the history of the family about sicknesses, be attached to the family emotionally, have time to listen to the medical problems, have positive attitude, be willing to make the life pleasant and happy, have the ability to suggest treatment and to refer to other specialists when required.
(d)Protection for crimes against senior citizens: With increasing age, the senior citizens become weaker and thus easy targets and are likely to become victims easily. Crimes against the senior citizens have been increasing in various parts of the country. We should also do something in this respect. The senior citizens should be careful in their house and dealings with all persons especially the unknown persons. They should learn martial arts in general, preferably in the young age itself. The number of such senior citizen students has been increasing. Karate is not necessarily only for the young persons.
(e)Walking: At any age, walking is said to be very useful for our health. It should be an essential part of our daily routine. We should feel happy to go out for walks for about half an hour, both in the mornings and evenings, in a garden or any other pollution free area. We should not find any excuse for avoiding walking in any way. Early morning time is much better. We can increase the distance and time of walking slowly, if required. There, we also happen to meet several persons of similar age group, with whom we can exchange pleasantries daily. At many places laughter clubs have been formed, for regular daily laughing exercises. There are several reasons for going for walking e.g. clean air, doing exercises, pleasure, enjoying some time alone, reducing stress caused due to work or family atmosphere, feeling of being energetic and improving health etc. It is desirable to make a variation in the place and route chosen for walking.
(f)Meditation: In this technique we are required to concentrate on a pious word or point, for a specified time. Regularly meditating twice daily is good for causing relaxation of the body and stress reduction.
(g)Exercises: We should be physically active, so that our body remains in order. We should select some exercises for the mornings and evenings, as per the capability of our body and should not do the most difficult ones only. We may also choose to do aerobic exercises, jogging and play games like tennis, table-tennis and badminton etc. 
(h)Yoga: Out of the many postures and procedures available, we can select a few suitable ones, for doing regularly, so that the body can become capable enough to fight the diseases.
(i)Diet: An important aspect for good health is diet. Besides the ingredients and their quantities, equally important is taking food without any tension, at regular times and not remaining hungry for a long time. While our diet should be limited, we should give more stress on use of green vegetables and fruits.
 (j) Contribution for society:  With their experience and free time, senior citizens can also contribute to the society. For this purpose they should get associated with some social organization(s), school, college, hospital, temple, resident welfare association and other organizations etc. for providing more or less regular services free of charge. They could also provide emergency services for help in emergent situations either on individual basis or through organizations like Red Cross, for physical (and if required even monetary) help in times of fires, floods, earthquakes, accidents, locating missing children and persons in fairs etc. At such times we may a part of a system for providing help in the form of food, clothing, temporary shelters/ housing, medicine, communication of messages etc. and then we will realize that our life is useful and not useless.
Multi service centres:
 (a) Helpline: Such a helpline will be very useful for everyone. In case of emergencies, volunteers can come and render medical or other help as required or avoid pressure or harassment to sign some documents etc. Senior citizens should be made aware of the concessions where available to them for air, train and bus travel and helped to use them in case of travels.
(b) Job placement and counselling centres: There are some organizations having data base of prospective employers for senior citizens, for assisting in job placement. They may also provide basic training facilities in some useful areas (like computer training) at concessional rates.
©Facilities of companionship: Some old people live a lonely life, and they need companionship. Some organizations may provide services of volunteer companions, who give company in the house, and may also give company for a play, film, shopping and walking etc. and also help otherwise to the extent possible,
(d) Help in quick disposal of cases: If and when the senior citizens are involved in any court cases, they may be provided legal help and also their cases may be heard, decided and disposed early.
(e) Celebration of Senior citizens day:  Periodically it should be organized, so that focus can be laid on their problems. Their family members should be invited to such functions, so that family bond can be brought back. Such programmes can be made lively by participation of all in singing, reciting poems, telling jokes and recording them
(f)Contribution of common citizens towards senior citizens:   We will need more young persons, to look after such senior citizens. People will have to change their attitude about senior citizens. Common citizens may get involved with one or more senior citizens. We may adopt at least one aged inmate by visiting the home for the aged. They may take a senior citizen for an outing, at least once in a month. They can be invited to get involved in cooperatives, community crèches & environment projects and help in running them.  
Hiring of retired persons:   Savings available with senior citizens are generally inadequate for their extended life.  Even those pensioners, who are well off economically, do like to keep themselves engaged for working usefully for the society.  These works may be in teaching and counselling etc. Even in a family the elderly can do counselling and the family should take their advice. The retired persons should not be considered as retired and out, but as retyred, i.e.  retired from one career, but not from work. Accordingly there are some organizations which are hiring retired persons, due to their expertise, maturity, judgement, decision making ability and past successes, in spite of their age. It is possible that they are not getting skilled and talented young persons, or that they have to be trained for several years or the system is inadequate to provide man power required due to faster growth. Certainly in some areas such persons are more useful but not in all areas. Some organizations may even be considering increasing the retirement age to around 65 years. The retired persons should take advantage of such opportunities due to their better health, their interest in fruitful use of the available time and better medical facilities. They may be given a fixed salary as consultancy fee, with or without a percentage of the business generated, besides laptops, mobile, car facility and stock options etc.  
Senior Citizens Council: Mainly in large cities these councils organize get-togethers periodically for the enjoyments of its members. Functions are also organized to honour those above 80 or 75 years of age, with shawl, garland, coconut and a gift. Intention is that they may live their remaining life with happiness and honour. In such functions, they remember their old days, share their joys, sorrows and experience, recite some poems and jokes and participate in music, if possible. They work willingly and smilingly for the welfare of persons of similar age groups. Birthdays of the members are celebrated together. They share even small happy events and cooperate with each other where help is required. When some of its members are experienced and high ranking persons, discussions are organized on suitable topics and the emerging ideas and suggestions are forwarded to the relevant authorities. Senior citizens should be considered to have retired from service or business, but not from life.
Day care centres: Some organizations have started day care centres for such senior citizens, where they spend a few hours of their day, by talking, resting, hearing bhajans, reading epics, exchanging thoughts, hearing lectures on topics useful for them, participating in yoga shivirs , getting advice on their problems and going on a picnic etc. They return to their homes in the evenings. They can have quality time here, besides exchanging thoughts about health and other matters with persons of same age group. They have many books especially of religious type for reading, besides some indoor games. Services of general and specialist doctors are arranged periodically. At some places they are also provided tea, medicines and glasses for vision etc. It may be having one odd person as staff besides a supervisor. Generally such centres may be run with a grant from the Government.
Old age homes: One solution for senior citizens, which is based on western culture, is that of old age homes. These have been provided in some places in the country. In many families the children are working or settled in foreign countries or are living/working in other far off places in India. Their financial condition is usually sound, but it is very difficult for them to look after their parents. In this age, senior citizens become prey to various diseases and they need someone to attend to them. After moving in old age homes, such persons start their life afresh in newer environment. Normally each person has a room to himself and spends his time as per his choice. With several persons of similar age group living close by in such old age homes, they normally live with the help of each other. With getting up early in the morning, going for a walk, doing yoga, doing puja, taking breakfast, each person involves himself in works of his choice e.g. singing bhajans, reading books, watching TV, gossiping, rest after lunch, going for a movie or a walk or outside visit and going in for sleep after dinner. In contrast to living alone, living together generates a desire to continue to live.
Preparation for investments by young persons of today for retiring rich: To think of retirement at the time of retirement is not a smart way. It is much better to plan right from the first year of the job/service/business. We should assess our needs at that time and the savings per month which we must make, to make our later life easy. We have to assess the likely income at the time of retirement and the amount needed for living at that time, in a similar style of living as at that time, while also considering inflation. Nowadays retirement insurance schemes are available. In addition, we can choose other investment schemes like MF, PPF, NSS, Post office saving schemes and recurring deposit schemes etc. If we are having capacity to take risks, we should go in for equity, but on long-term basis for at least 7-10 years. In consultation with our C.A. or tax consultant we can decide about them. With the rich experience of life at the time of retirement, we can also select a suitable part time job. We should not touch the original amount of savings. But we should plan for unexpected requirements of funds due to health requirements, natural calamity or any other emergent situations. Requirements of funds for marriage, education of children and foreign travel etc. should be covered through insurance schemes.
Many of us are apprehensive about our retired life and want that it should be reasonably comfortable. But with thoughtful planning of our investments, we can manage to have a smooth time, although it is very difficult to make an accurate assessment of the funds required, including for medical bills after retirement, for a reasonable life. We may be getting money from pension, rentals and small assignments etc. If we are not having our own house, paying rent for our living is an important factor. The amount of money to be generated regularly is the guiding factor. During the job we have to look after our family and commitments, spend money for the education of the children, and pay the installments for the house loan taken, social obligations, besides unforeseen expenses and saving for the requirements of retirement.  People say that we must start saving regularly, preferably from the first month of the job undertaken, whatever be the amount of salary or earning and invest wisely and on long term basis. Even if the total income of both the husband and wife together is  small, when we start saving from the beginning, due to long time available, the money gets compounded and at the time of retirement a substantial amount will be available. This is the power of long- term investment. There are uncertain factors like bank rates coming down, rate of inflation increasing and not knowing the number of years one will live after retirement but we have to make best use of the uncertain situations. The rate of inflation may be 8-10 %. Many persons generally prefer PPF and life insurance due to some benefits. But these are not enough. If we invest in equity or MFs on long-term basis, we may get an average of 15-20 % return, which is needed. If we are investing in individual stocks, we must select and decide carefully some big, performing and quality companies, after study and consultation with concerned persons. But we must not put all eggs in one basket. We should invest in several companies, buying even small number of shares. There are several schemes offering retirement plans, by early and regular saving especially for the salaried persons and professionals. But we must study various available plans and take our own decision. Best option is said to be to go in for Systematic Investment Plan (SIP), as an investment for future. In this case we are a regular and disciplined investor, our investment returns are not affected due to ups and downs of the market and get evened out due to long-term investment. After retirement we can decide to go in for systematic withdrawal plans.
If we need regular monthly income after retirement, we should invest in monthly fixed income schemes and FDRs of Banks. We must consult our CA, about our income-tax and wealth tax payments involved after retirement. In many cases wealth tax may not be involved. We must go in for those investments where income tax involvement is nil or less. We must examine if any special schemes are available for high income groups, whose interest may be free of income tax. By proper choice of investments, we must reduce our tax involvement. Many retired persons go in for Bank FDRs, due to their liquidity, safety, ease of operation and regular income at fixed intervals. But it is not advisable to have one FDR for the full amount in one bank only. We may have several FDRs of different amounts, and in different branches or different banks. In this way safety is more, and it is easy to break and encash the FDR prematurely, in case of emergency requirements and also avoid TDS. Besides banks, some companies also offer fixed deposit schemes, which generally have slightly higher rates of interest payable monthly, quarterly or yearly or cumulative till maturity. But we must ascertain full information about the company, also invest carefully in several companies instead of investing in one company only. We must not be greedy. Sometimes some persons/organizations/advertisements offer very high rates like 30 % per year. These are lucrative but risky. In such cases, as per past experience, a few installments are given and then these companies disappear, never to be seen again. We may go in for offers from Government companies, where generally returns are less, but guaranteed, even if the company is running in loss. Retired persons should generally not go in for investing in secondary share market, excepting probably investing small amounts in IPOs of new companies. But investing in MFs may be considered, especially in those cases which are being traded at lower price than the issue price. When we sell MFs, we may have to pay capital gains tax. Since there are risks involved, in case our financial health is very good, we may go in for shares and MFs. For retired persons, convertible debentures and life insurance policies are also not recommended.  PPF is said to be a good investment, which gives a secured and tax free return, though it has certain limitations.
Pension is an important requirement for retirement. There are a number of schemes for this purpose especially of insurance companies. Its premium amount also gets a tax deduction. We should choose schemes for saving (for retirement) on long term basis for decades. Though pension received is taxable, being considered as income, it is best to start the pension plan early in life, so that we can get more amounts at lower cost, besides the tax benefit.  After retirement, generally a person is unable to do lot of running about and follow up. This point must be considered while making investments. Also we must not blindly copy the investments made by another retired person, since his case may be very much different.


Vijai K Sharma said...

Regarding the senior citizens, there is an article "Make life meaningful for senior citizens" by Mr. Satish Rao, in Bangalore Times dt. Jul 21, 2012. According to him they have the wealth of experience you can tap while giving them security and independence.

Vijai K Sharma said...

In this connection abstract of an article "Keeping seniors safe" by Gajanan Khergamker, abstract written by vijaiksharma is relevant. This can be accessed on the link