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Should Doctors Retire?
P Madhok*

With age-ing, problems of old age set in, even for practising doctors. Dimness of vision because of developing cataracts, hearing problems and joint pains are a common feature. Some develop hypertension and diabetes. Others may have digestive disturbances. Remembering names of patients and even drugs can cost an effort. Certain amount of cerebral atrophy is associated with old age, which may translate into learning difficulties for the doctor for newer techniques and methods of investigations.

Science is advancing so fast that unless one keeps up with CME, library and/or internet, he will only become a back number.

Changing times have brought in changing attitudes. There may be no longer the same concern for the patients or fellow doctors, as the aging doctor might expect. The other problem of advancing age is losing friends and colleagues to death, disease and infirmity. For those doctors who are still upright the question is to retire or to go on?

In foreign countries the options are easier. Being welfare states, retirement brings in rich benefits, a handsome pension, old peoples clubs and promotion of hobbies. In India, unless doctor has made himself secure, options are fewer. Besides the savings might not be commensurate with the rising price index. Joint family systems are dying out and nuclear families are the in-thing. Many old couples live alone because children have gone abroad. So passing time alone in the house may be a problem
I feel those doctors who can work, should work. They need not work “centre stage” but accept a less stressful life style. Health check-up, desk job consultations, charitable clinics, administrations is what I have in mind. Teaching, writing books and medical articles for those who enjoy doing it. Taking to alternative therapy like yoga, acupressure, acupuncture, aroma therapy, etc. is a good option for the enterprising type. Unfortunately there are not many employment opportunities for aging doctors at present. The Government and NGO’s should help create some.

Loneliness must be combatted because too frequently it leads to depression. In Japan they encourage the elderly to indulge in brain stimulating exercises like solving crosswords, playing chess or bridge. Learning to dream and fantasizing is very important. They hold classes where the senior citizen learns to paint, draw, sing or write poetry.

In our city laughter clubs and travel clubs have sprung up - which has brought happiness to many people.

For a single doctor, with nobody to stay with or unwilling to settle abroad with his children, remarriage ought to be considered. Companionship is very important with advancing years. It may not be the culture of our country but aren’t we adopting many other conventions of the West?


* Ex Hon. Paed Surgeon, Bai Jerbai Wadia Paediatric Hospital, Parel, Mumbai 400 012