Thanks to defeatist stories and ideas, old age is often allied to grief, sorrow and death. However, hope and the zeal to live break through the shackles of stereotypes and show us the vibrancy of senior citizens. After all senior citizens are like any other section in society. They have a tight social circle and enjoy or want to enjoy the perks of retired life. But since they are past their time to contribute productively to the nation, they are not economically strong.
“Not being self reliant makes senior citizens recipients of neglect and disrespect in some families,” says Sarasa Vasudevan who runs a home for the elderly since a decade. To her, empowering the elderly is most essential and it can be attained through a sense of being “wanted”.
The Nightingale Foundation collaborated with the Rotary Club, Bangalore to conduct a seminar on Empowering the Elderly on Thursday. The seminar had author Chaya Srivatsa as the Chief Guest and she said that old people still had the verve and energy of their youth and desired to move ahead of challenges. She said, "It is very important to document your life and tell the world what you did. I highly recommend blogging. You could take up any incident in your life that you remember and write about it. Leave behind this legacy for your children even if you do not leave behind a lot of money.”
The Nightingale Empowerment Foundation was initiated two years ago by Mike Shah, the chairman who says, “All the while, we aimed at providing care and attention to the physical and mental aspects of the elderly and prevented them from being left out in peer groups or to get into depression. We realised much later, how important it is to provide cohesive support in the economic aspect as well.” The Nightingale Foundation provides computer literacy to the educated elderly in the age of Information Technology and vocational training to the uneducated. “We have a job portal and a website that caters to job seeking senior citizens from 60 to 70 years of age. We have conducted two job fairs in our organisation. Out of 1200 who applied for a job, 479 have been placed,” says,Radha Murthy, Managing Trustee of The Nightingale Foundation. The common jobs available to the elderly are of cashiers, accountants, trainers and teachers.
Besides that, the pharmaceutical industry is also employing more senior citizens who are able and willing to work at the prevailing wages.
“Attractive salaries are not my concern any more. I have passed that phase in life. We get pensions to live comfortably. Now, it is just that.. as long as I live I want to be mentally active. I am a Mechanical Engineer and even today, my hands are always fiddling with a spanner or a pair of pliers,” said D Venkataraman, who retired seven years ago. He goes to a nearby garage at Halsur to lend a helping hand sometimes.
Housewife turned entrepreneur, Shyamala Sundar from Indiranagar says, “I teach art and tailoring to some ladies in my building. I also sell some handmade crafts.” All these empowered senior citizens opine that age is just a number and life is too precious to waste.
P Srinivas, a very jovial gentleman who retired from Usha Fans 20 years ago has a different take on empowerment, “Wisdom, is being empowered. That is being identified with the permanent and playing along with the impermanent.” When asked to elucidate, he cites The Bourne Identity as an example and says how even after having so many names the protagonist is trying to find his identity.
Further, he says the change aspect instills fear in old people.
“Fear suppresses the old. I have understood that. Today, if I eat a piece of jamoon, I am very happy. I don’t think of the future even though I am a mobile sugar factory.”
Thus, reiterating that life is fun always and one has believe in this truth to be able to live it with joy.