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Friday, July 12, 2019

Senescence .. .. .. vanishing thandatti !

Ever heard  OF Senescence / Gerontology ?

Miles away, the U.S. economy entered its 11th year of uninterrupted expansion, breaking the previous record for the longest period of growth in American history without a recession.But far from celebrating, many economists conclude from this unprecedented performance that a recession is now overdue, if not immediately then surely before the 2020 presidential election. Fortunately for the U.S. economy, but sadly for President Donald Trump’s opponents, the idea that economic expansions have some kind of natural lifespan and then die of old age has neither empirical nor theoretical support.

Old age refers to ages nearing or surpassing the life expectancy of human beings, and is thus the end of the human life cycle. Terms and euphemisms include old people, the elderly (worldwide usage), seniors (American usage), senior citizens (British and American usages), older adults (in the social sciences), and the elders (in many cultures—including the cultures of aboriginal people).Old people often have limited regenerative abilities and are more susceptible to disease, syndromes, injuries and sickness than younger adults. Old people will also have a lot of symptoms. For example, healthy bones are critical to senior health. As the body ages, it begins to absorb old bone tissue faster than new bone tissue can be created, thus bones tend to become thinner and weaker. This leads to a condition known as osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become very fragile and can easily break after a fall, or even during everyday movements.

Besides ageing, economic demands can be cruel on people.  Some have to work menial jobs to earn and make their ends meet.  After retiring from formal employment, scores of the country’s elderly people are forced to live a life of humiliation, abuses and isolation. In such a scenario, one is compelled to think about the living conditions of the aged from the economically weaker sections.  Some studies confirm that a high majority of old people are poor with no source of known income. Relatively smaller  per cent still have money, properties, savings, investments, inheritance and above all supportive children. However, put up against facts like India has a population of 100 million old people and that the number will touch 324 million by 2050, the good news fizzles out.

The study, which had a sample size of 3,400 spread across 323 districts across the country, also stated that older women are more prone to suffer abuse due to factors like gender discrimination, longer life span than older men, longer span of widowhood and no source of income as traditionally most of them are housewives.  The responsibility is not primarily that of the Government, but more weighing on the loved ones of the aged who are truly responsible for keeping them happy and healthy.

Now read this interesting article in The Hindu ~  .. .. .. R Rajammal, a retired nurse from the Government Hospital, is seated on the thinnai of her home in Usilampatti. In a pink cotton sari and hair in a bun, her skin is a beautiful contrast against the gold thandattisthat gleam in the afternoon sun. The earrings, in a 3D geometrical shape, which are sometimes as heavy as 15 grams each, add to her character. They hang heavily from her slender earlobes, which have stretched over the years from the weight of the accessory.

Wizened older women with elongated ear lobes have long been a part of Madurai’s fabric. These days, though, it is becoming increasingly rare to find women who wear these distinctive pieces of jewellery, except perhaps the occasional lady who sells greens at the weekly market.Where have they all gone? In Usilampatti, Madurai district, however, thandattis thrive. Women in this small town, which has less than 10,000 households, continue the practice of wearing these heavy pieces of jewellery, on elongated earlobes, although this is confined to the Kuruvar community.

First, the ears are pierced and the hole is made bigger with a knife. Then, dried cowpeas stuffed in cotton balls, which are in turn wrapped in a kunuku leaf, is placed inside the hole. After a week or two, more cotton is added. This process is repeated for a month, such that with each passing week, the ear lobe elongates. Once the hole stretches to more than 1.5 centimetre in diameter, the ear lobe will never spring back to its original shape !

The savudi is similar to the thandatti, but is shaped into multiple rings and each one is adorned with four to five rings weighing around 96 grams in total. Depending on the shape and design, the heavy earrings go by various names; these include mudichu, nagavadam, and arisithattu, all of which are no longer seen. Koppu, murukutchi, and idathattu are studs worn in the helix, scapha, and antihelix, respectively.

While worn purely as an accessory, the earrings were part of the wedding trousseau, according to 70-year-old Chinnathayi from Madhrai in Usilampatti. “They were an indicator of how wealthy one was. Women sold them during times of financial crises as well,” she notes. The thandatti women of Usilampatti have been featured in several films, including the recent Devarattam. Although they’re proud of their long ears and the rather unconventional earrings, many of them are now getting the ear holes surgically stitched. “They feel it is not fashionable any more,” concludes the article adding -  “Who knows, future generations may see these earrings only in museums.”

Senescence or biological aging is the gradual deterioration of functional characteristics. Senescence is the inevitable fate of all multicellular organisms with germ-soma separation,  but it can be delayed. The discovery, in 1934, that calorie restriction can extend lifespan by 50% in rats.  Environmental factors may affect aging, for example, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation accelerates skin aging. Gerontology is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of ageing. The field is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of existing disease in older adults.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
12th July 2019.

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