Sundera Gopalan is a super hero of sorts to seniors. She is no caped crusader, but when this 76-year-old grandma receives a distress signal- which in this case comes as a feeble cry for help from a lonely, sometimes suicidal, senior citizen – she swoops in, pallu pinned to save the day.
“I don’t do anything dramatic. I just engage in a conversation, crack a few jokes or take them for a walk in the park. And then I do it again. Twice a week at least for months, until they feel alive again,” says Sundera, who volunteers as a senior helping other seniors at the Dignity Foundation in Chennai, an organization helping the elderly lead active lives.
In the case of 85-year old Vedavalli Srinivasagopalan, it’s whenever she flies in from the US to visit her daughter. Vedavalli spends her day stitching pouches, handbags and handkerchiefs, which she sells to friends and neighbours, donating the proceeds to old-age homes.
For five years now, Chennai based Udhavi, an organization that assists elder, founded by 75 -year old Sabita Radhahrishna, has been working with a group of volunteers, most of who are in their seventies, to help other seniors with everything from a walk on the beach to a temple visit, assistance at the bank, sabha hopping or a shopping spree.
From a very inspiring article in the Times of India by Kamini Mathai.
A panel of experts from the NHRC core group on disability and elderly persons at a meeting in Delhi, has recommended that India should adopt the “time bank’ model adopted by Switzerland.
Under the time bank model people save time and volunteer to take care of the elderly who need help. The number of hours they spend time with and take care of senior citizens are deposited into their account of the social security system. When the volunteer himself gets old and needs someone for help, he/she can use the time bank and a volunteer is assigned to take care of him/her.
There are approx. 10 crore senior citizens in India of which around 1.50 crores live alone. Approx. 90% of these are left to fend for themselves. There is urgent need to build over 800 old age care homes across the country.
Neeraj Chauhan in Times of India dated 06 October 2018
I have planned an ambitious 4000 kms cyclotron in support of old age care, particularly for the elderly from the disadvantaged sections of society, that will commence in January 2019. This will coincide with my 70th year and I am very keen on contributing to a meaningful and socially relevant cause to mark this milestone.
Briefly, I am planning a cyclotron of approx 4000 kms across the country, starting mid-January of next year and running through the first half of 2019. I plan to cover old age care homes along the route and capture human interest stories of the inmates as well as caregivers and volunteers and showcase these stories and experiences in the social and print media to encourage contributions in monetary terms and volunteer services from the society. Fellow cyclists from cycling clubs and those who support this noble cause will join me at various stages of this endeavour.
I am seeking a partnership in this endeavour with a leading NGO, such as HelpAge India, and some corporate houses.
The principal aim of this venture is to generate concern and empathy for old age care in society at large and corporate houses and to encourage contributions both in monetary terms and through volunteer services.
Any funds mobilised through this project will be directly credited to the bank account of the NGO by donors.
The support that an NGO can provide for this project is the following:
1)Be a nodal point for receiving donations from the public at large and corporate houses.
2)Encourage willing participation by the old age care homes.
3)Provide support at the ground level through their employees and volunteers to engage with the care homes.
4)Provide promotional material that can be used prior to and during the event showcasing the work done by the NGO.
The scale of the event is planned to be ambitious and will depend on the quantum of sponsorship support that will be pledged by the corporate houses.
“.. For those who live longer the quality of life may depend entirely on the kind of human support system they have, in terms of family and friends and how they now perceive and treat you, and the kind of facilities and benefits that government and agencies and other institutions may make available to the elderly.
Which is why nurturing human relationships and staying connected is so important, not just for older people, but for younger members as well, who tend to distance themselves from their loved ones, often unintentionally, in the hurry-bury of a working life.
Hence the need to engage in conversation with friends and family, free from distractions of e-gadgets and resist the urge “to keep up with the Joneses.” Because, if you plan to sit down and chat with your ageing parents once you are ‘free’- after you are through with answering your emails and social media updates, getting promotions, buying that car or house and after getting your children ‘settled’- you may have simply missed the bus.”
Narayani Ganesh in the Speaking Tree, Times of India, 1st 0ct. 2018.