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Senior Citizens: Matured interaction is at the core of a good relationship

03:25 PM Jul 31, 2021 | Dr A K Sen Gupta

Backdrop:

We often see elderly people unhappy as they feel neglected. While they were working, their voices were often heard and given importance in all decision making in the family. If they occupied a senior position in professional career, they were respected and heard at all important issues there as well. But things quickly change with retirement and seniors start feeling ignored both at home as well as outside. At home, members are all busy in their routine work. If he / she encounters any working office staff, the interaction is minimal and sometimes there is none other than pleasantries. The phone does not ring for the whole day. People also start receiving lesser number of birthday or celebratory messages and list goes on. Sense of neglect and loneliness sets in leading to a state of depression.

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Keeping interactions intact:

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Only solution to this problem lies with elderly themselves. They need to make conscious efforts to keep intact the process of interaction at all levels. If they are staying alone, they should take a phone and call the children at weekends. Similarly, they should try to chat once in a while with the staff of last worked office, whenever time permits. While realizing that they have retired and they should allow other people to be busy for their own lives, it should be their active endeavour to keep line of communication intact, at least in weekends or some celebration time of family members or employees or friends. Experience they have gained in journey of life should bestow them wisdom and they should understand that life must go on with a positive attitude.

Process of interaction:

To understand process of interaction, the handbook captioned I’m OK, You’re OK by the American Psychologist Thomas A Harris (1967) will be of great help. It is suggested that all seniors read this help book and try to understand underlying principles of inter-personal transaction / interaction.

As per the book, in any human relationship, there are four types of transaction / interaction:

1. I am OK, You are not OK: This is one of the commonly observed interactions involving seniors. It means the elderly person is interacting from a dominant position (parent ego) and ordering the other person (family member or recipient of the communication) to do something / rebuking for something, etc. This comes from a thinking that the elderly person is still in a position of authority. “Why are you coming so late”, “I told you not to do it”, and the communications like this emanate from this life position. This definitely is NOT an acceptable mode of interaction and relationship is likely to be strained.

2. I am not OK, You are OK: This is another type of transaction from the other extreme of spectrum i.e. the elderly person speaking from an inferiority complex to the counterpart. It signifies first breakdown of transaction as the elderly person thinks that his / her days are gone and he / she is to depend on mercy of the other person. This is definitely also NOT a desired type of transaction. Transactions emanating from an abused elderly person often fall under this category.

3. I am not OK, You are not OK: Here the elderly person assumes that everything is lost, there is no point in transaction / communication and maybe it signifies first stage of withdrawal. This is because the person thinks ill of himself / herself and also the same with all others. This is possibly the beginning of total breakdown of relationship and must be AVOIDED.

4. I am OK, You are OK: This is the most appropriate transaction between two adults as the elderly person thinks and communicates from adult ego state to adult state of receiver (family member or another recipient). Here maturity comes in the nature of transaction. “Why not talk out the issues”, or “Let us go for an outing tomorrow” or “I heard that you are having some problems at office”, etc. are some such mature conversation / communication from the elderly person.

Final thoughts:

As we grow old, our sphere of communication and transactions shrinks. It is time we mature and try to transact with others from our adult ego (understanding and empathy). This way communication channels will remain intact with transactions becoming mature and relationships remaining intact, if not better. The onus is on us how as elderly people we adjust to the changing reality and interact / transact with others with responsibility and understanding so that it helps in our graceful ageing process.

Dr A K Sen Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at aksengupta51@gmail.com or 9821128103.

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