Cultivating hope into the old-age lives through NGOs

By Mahesh Chand Sharma

For many, volunteering is somewhat an infatuation; not for NGOs. Their sole intent with volunteering is to act responsible for the burgeoning societal concerns and cure them to restore warmth and humanity into society. Elder abuse is one such concern that has tormented the Indian society for ages, followed by isolation, health issues, dependency and many more, found among the elderly, especially when their children leave them alone in the old age.

We earn and lose many things in life; the filial affection and responsibilities fall on the latter. No doubt, today’s generation is facing massive cultural shifts, but why are we losing connections within our families? Why are the exciting cross-conversations between grandparents, parents and cousins, gradually losing sheen?

Unfortunately, a major populace of senior citizens in India lives a miserable and isolated life without adequate care from their children, which is a matter of serious concern. Urban living has added further to the cause. As per the 2017 Economic Survey, 90 lakh people migrated from rural hinterlands to urban areas for either education or jobs. Urban living has gradually killed the age-old tradition of joint families. It is found that urban living is mostly nuclear and only around 8 per cent of this populace live in joint families.

We have also witnessed that the share of adult children who believed that caring for their parents was their prime responsibility, plummeted from 91 per cent in 1984 to 51 per cent in 2001. Just imagine what would be the share now, in 2018. All this has added to the already-worsening situation of senior citizens in India; hence most of them live isolated and lonely lives. However, many NGOs in India have come forward to help the elderly and offer them dignified lives.

The idea is to uplift this section with kindness. NGOs run various engaging programs and workshops to achieve that goal and bring change in the social and economic conditions of the elderly across India. They employ a well-trained staff of volunteers who understand the ever-fluctuating needs of old people and help them emotionally to live an active and happy life. They offer a homely atmosphere to all the elderly, including services such as medical aid, bedding, and meals, among others.

NGOs also play a vital role in advocating for the needs and rights of elderly. These organizations make sure that their volunteers regularly visit every single senior citizen living under their umbrella and strive to create a healthy living space coupled with eclectic confidence-building and entertaining activities.

Today, there are many renowned companies, which are collaborating with NGOs to cater to society through multiple CSR activities. However, a challenge that some NGOs still face is their outdated work approach. They still use less effective ways, for instance, they still garner, compile and report data, physically, which in turn, results in inaccurate outcomes and poor findings. To resolve this, several start-ups have come forward to replace these traditional techniques with digital technologies.

Besides, India’s 65 per cent of the total population of elder people is extremely poor, who can’t even afford the medical expenses, and sadly, there are others too, who can’t afford one time meal to feed themselves. This number will further grow in the coming years. Unfortunately, even today, we have around 41.6 per cent of the elderly who are forced to work for survival. It has also been found that many government policies introduced in the last few years, looked good only on paper. Also, in most of the cases, funds were duly received but failure in implementation led to more losses than ever. So, unless the government does not take corrective measures, the lives of the elderly will remain plagued.

A few decades ago, family members of a joint family lived with a sense of security. Even the weakest among all were treated equally. But with the changing times and cultural shifts, joint families gradually started dividing into nuclear families. When a younger person of any nuclear family leaves the house for starting his own nuclear family, the elders are mostly left alone. Even if they make attempts to engage themselves through various activities and interactive sessions, it is not enough. In their twilight years, they seek company from people to share conversations and live peaceful lives.

Caring for elders is an onus for everyone, not for the government or the NGO only. Ageing is a natural phenomenon, and you can’t stop it. Children from their infancy and even the middle-aged populace should realize and learn the ways of treating their elders. A responsible citizen is also a son or a daughter. Leaving parents unaddressed in their old age is a shameful act.

NGOs make sure that the elderly receive a generous dose of happiness and contentment on a frequent basis. They positively influence the lives of these people and create an environment full of fun, care and entertainment. We must learn from NGOs about how they help elders to stay fit mentally as well as physically; how they emotionally empower them with contentment and how they bring the sunshine back into their isolated lives.

(Mahesh Chand Sharma, Chairman, AAP International)