Elderly people are most vulnerable segment of population in this time of pandemic. Besides being physically weak, many of them are suffering from anxiety. Physical distancing concept is hurting them the most. Studies show that many of them even in large cities are not aware of basic issues like how to go in for vaccination. We are indeed in midst of catastrophe and elderly people are worst affected.
Under this climate of misery, there are various individuals / organizations who are doing a good job in bringing smile to the elderly. These are only few instances based on our limited research. We are sure there are many more doing equally good work.
Role of family:
Family plays an important role in offering help to elderly particularly if they are staying in a joint family set up. Presence of children itself is a great source of strength.
One such example is Bigyan Verma, Director, SIES Management College, Navi Mumbai. He says,” We live with three octogenarians (my parents and father in law) and in this pandemic, we know how important it is to keep their heart unwrinkled and help them remain cheerful. We do not take them outside and also do not allow any social interaction. This caused a lot of stress for them. Then we started concept of family “tete-e-tete & tea” in our balcony every day afternoon that became an effective way of keeping them happy.”
Other such example is Harish Aiyer, Hon. Secretary, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Navi Mumbai. He says, “ I was managing 4 senior citizens during pandemic between ages of 70 and 89. We created a mini nursing home with Oxygen concentrators, 24*7 nurse and strict Covid protocol. Their entertainment needs are taken care of through WhatsApp / zoom calls and family meeting 3 days or so. It has worked wonders.”
Views of Aparna Ramachandra, an entrepreneur are equally important. She says senior citizens are battling what can be classified as depression in some form or other. It is, therefore, important to communicate with elderly people to make them feel important and happy. She feels to be blessed to live with her parents during this pandemic and says how important it is to stay together in such difficult times.
According to Veena Adige, a social worker, elderly people need understanding besides medicines and other necessary things. Sometimes, they may not be feeling well but cannot express how exactly they feel. Empathy by family is important.
Rightly summarises Vidya Shenoy, an expert in elderly matters that these are indeed challenging times and there is a need to come together for a common purpose of being support to one another.
Role of Communities:
Senior citizen communities play a big role to keep elderly members engaged and connected. My Retired Life Foundation is an example how it kept members busy during pandemic through a series of interactive programs. It was a challenge to get members on digital platform and it was through persuasion and series of interventions by a number of active members that a good number of members migrated to digital platform. MRLF organised 114 programs during 2020-2021 which was unthinkable even in physical mode. MRLF also encouraged members to actively engage in creative hobbies like singing, reciting poems, skits / arts / drawing / painting / photography / videography, etc.
Special Acts by Volunteers:
Many senior citizen members during pandemic were involved in unique activities for elderly people helping them to lessen their anxiety and stay happy.
One such act has been launching of new website: www.neversayretired.in by Vijay Maroo, a social worker. Idea was to harness energy of active senior citizens to contribute to nation building through active social service. It is a mission to energise elderly people in a positive direction.
Other initiative has been by Ms Krishnaveni, an expert in the area of Dance Movement Therapy. She says, “DMT is based on principle that body and mind are inseparable and healing of body and mind in tandem results in holistic well-being. Further, movement is key to healthy aging.” Through DMT, she has been able to keep elders busy and engaged.
Acts by Senior Citizen Homes:
Many specialised senior citizen homes have taken special initiatives.
For example, Aaji Care old age home made its entire staff from housekeeping to physiotherapist stay at their homes for more than a year. This was for better service as well as safety of senior citizens. Prasad Bhide, Founder, Aaji Care says, “We also started a group and virtual activities for seniors staying alone to keep them engaged and connected.
Similarly, Silver Innings, an assisted health care centre for elderly people promoted by Shailesh Mishra, has recently started a new concept of Mission Food Donation: Pandemic 2021, wherein they are distributing cooked home-made tiffin to people in Quarantine and dry ration to daily wage earner and under-privileged.
Above are some instances of good work being done by various individuals / social entities for benefit of elderly people in this period of pandemic. Let us hope a greater number of people undertake such acts. This would help elderly people in a big way to fight menace of the pandemic.
Dr A K Sen Gupta is the Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). This article has been published in Free Press Journal (FPJ) on 1st May, 2021, where he is a regular contributor. Dr Sen Gupta was the Director of S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai and Director & Mentor at SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai. He was a World Bank Consultant and instrumental in setting up National Banking College in Ghana, Africa and Professor at National Institute of Bank Management, Pune.