HYDERABAD:The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, goes a popular saying. Sadly, in the 21st century, nothing could be further from the truth, at least in the aspect of taking care of the elderly.
With more and more grown-ups preferring to stay away from their parents, the elderly across the country are facing the frightening prospect of being on their own during their twilight years.
This is not an India-specific phenomenon. Recently, UK became the first country in the world to appoint a Minister for Loneliness to tackle the growing problem in the country. As per a 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, over nine million people in the country often or always feel lonely.
Closer home, a survey held by Agewell Foundation NGO in 2017 found that over 64 percent of the elderly in India were suffering from loneliness. As per the 2011 Census, the number of elderly (those above 60) is around 103.2 million. And the numbers would swell to 300 million by 2050, as per a UN report.
Loneliness, not being cared for, not given freedom to have their say, physical ailments, diminishing mental faculties, etc. are some of the issues being faced by the elderly today. Whether a country is developing or developed, the travails of senior citizens continue.
However, all is not gloom and doom yet. As with every aspect in life, there are some green shoots here as well. There are people who stay with their elderly parents and take care of them, though the numbers are few and far between. Numerous charitable trusts and private players are chipping in to address the gap by providing varied services to the elderly, from 24x7 caregiving to imparting digital training skills. Exclusive spaces for the elderly, called ‘retirement homes’ are also witnessing a boom, with senior-citizen specific amenities and services such as free intercom, round the clock electricity and security, etc.
Founded in 2014 by Vipin Pathak and Garima Tripathi, Care24 is an elderly care solution provider with operations in Mumbai and Delhi NCR, and is planning to launch in Hyderabad soon.
Care24’s geriatric care attendants provide services such as bathing, hair care, dressing (diaper changing when required), etc. and keep a daily health record which includes vital signs and sugar monitoring. The organisation even provides soft skills and behavioural training for attendants.Explaining about Care24, Vipin says, “We do extensive background checks of potential candidates which include address, police and court verifications. In case of emergency, the attendants call the elderly person’s relative and doctor. Whenever possible, caregivers take the elderly for walks, have them play board games such as puzzles, carroms, listening to songs, etc.”
Another organisation is Omashram, a charitable trust founded in 2001 in Bengaluru with the objective of providing care to the elderly irrespective of caste and creed.Omashram provides residential care with full boarding and lodging facility, including medical care to the old, belonging mostly to poor and middle class sections of society. The elderly are provided with nutritious food, medical and physical assistance by volunteers.
“The bedridden and sick are provided with extensive medical care and are hygienically looked after with adult diapers and extra care. They watch TV and even help us in the day to day activities such as cutting vegetables, fruits etc. Various schools, colleges, families and corporates visit on a regular basis and engage with them in lively activities, sharing sumptuous meals, gifts and smiles,” says Geeta Shankar, Founder of Omashram.
On the payment aspect, she says the Trust first discusses the financial background of those willing to join, and then decides on the fees to be paid, adding that in some cases, they waive off the fees entirely, and look for sponsors to bear the expenses.
Not just taking care of the physical and emotional needs of the elderly, some companies such as ChiragRathod also train the elderly in getting tech savvy. They organise courses in email management, skype, social media, online banking and shopping, flight and train tickets booking, and more!
Reason to cheer, ain’t it?
— Shyam Yadagiri