In Indian thought, life- stages guided roles. The four ashrams Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sanyasa (renunciation) set a pace, rythym and design for life through ages. It distinctly suggested purpose and guided the role of the old and the young, in families, societies and in ruling empires. With the change of time, increase in life spans and the spiralling idea of time, we often clash with Age.
Today we aspire and continue to learn in fits and starts. Second careers define retirement, householders buy homes early and lead nuclear families. Senior living communities and new cities are attracting many young to move.We renounce while we consume- making important life and ideological choices. Some shun leather and turn vegetarian as they support PETA. Many accept and reject brands and products for ideological differences. With the spiral of life in action, in modern day and age India faces new opportunities and challenges.
While India gets younger, it is also getting older at the other end of the spectrum. In 2016, the number of Indians over the age of 60 hit an all-time high of 8.6% of the country’s population. By 2021, 143 million senior citizens will cross the 10% mark of the country’s overall population. The last census showed the population of senior citizens jump by 35.5%, almost the double rate of population growth. During this decade, the rate will be faster.
Better medical and health facilities and overall prosperity mean the human race is living longer, better and often more active in their professions. For Being Ageless many retired the second-innings is as impactful and meaningful as the first. While in the first they were working for fulfilling duties and responsibilities, the second innings is for giving back and pursuing passions. At the same time, over 2 million Indians are joining the work force every year. By 2021, one out of three Indians would be born in this century. At 464 million by 2021, India’s young population will be far higher than the total population of United States.
In the times of tomorrow, age perhaps will have no meaning. It will remain a number and challenge ideas of youth and wisdom. Born in an era of abundance, choice and entrepreneurship, the younger generation quite predictably has different aspirations, beliefs and behavior than the older generation born soon after Independence in an era of shortages, frugality and socialism. The elders of today see an extension of life. Born in a socialist India but matured in an opportune India, they too want to explore life beyond norms expected for people as they age. As new age citizens, grand parents, leaders they are yet to be defeated or sidelined. They rule with wisdom and experience and revive themselves from time to time.
The young tomorrow will become house owners at the early age of 30, they will attain the peak of success perhaps much earlier than their parents did, they aspire to travel the world and make money all simultaneously. Young CEOs are at the helm of large new age corporations and if times of today have anything to suggest- we can’t help but note the role of Akhilesh Yadav, Kanhaiya Kumars and Hardik Patels. India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh – elected Akhilesh Yadav as its Chief Minister when he was 38 years of age- the youngest ever. One can wonder if it is sheer coincidence that the most potent political movements of 2016 were well outside the domains of conventional politicians. The Jat movement in Haryana and Rajasthan, the Patidar movement in Gujarat, the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, and the Maratha movement in Maharashtra were entirely of the youth in these states and revolved around jobs and reservations for the youth of these communities. In fact, they were led by youngsters of ages unheard of in Indian politics.
Our largest stars and icons of these times, from Rajnikanth to Amitabh Bachchan to Narendra Modi and even Ratan Tata have demonstrated that they are a ripe lot nowhere close to quitting. They are fit, healthy and ready to compete with time and have a lot more to give yet. Change of guard in a country like India is not going to be easy.
The relationship between the young and the old is varying. At some points they compete and a change of guard is desired as values clash. At other instances they beautifully compliment and share a reciprocal relationship. In Indian homes we see a trend of reverse parenting, here the young teach and govern many family decisions. Whether it’s a decision to buy a car, a mobile phone or the latest television, the voice of the young is often sought out for almost guaranteeing the families up to datedness.
India’s demographic divide will continue to be a recurring feature in almost every facet of life for many years to come. The future is both unknown, but the wheel doesn’t need to reinvent again and again. Wisdom and enthusiasm are required in equal measure to create the world of tomorrow. But it is beyond demographics now- mindsets and attitudes have changed over time. The young and the old often battle it out in the open, fight for their own beliefs and craft the story of a new India. An India where perhaps age does not win is it young or old- but the ability to stay relevant stay ahead and fight hard wins.