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Updated: July 17, 2013 15:08 IST

Superheroes wear grey

Mathew Cherian
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A LIFE Of freedom Photo: Brijesh Jaiswal
The Hindu A LIFE Of freedom Photo: Brijesh Jaiswal

Providing the elderly the confidence to lead a life of dignity is a pressing need

In a country where many families are unable to provide for the elders and where the government does not provide economic security to its elderly, 90 per cent of them are pushed into working well into their old age. However, much of the work is low paid and unrecognised. In such a scenario, HelpAge India has supported 30,000 elders through the Elders’ Self-Help Groups (ESHGs) by providing them with micro-finance and help from NABFIN (a NABARD subsidiary), as well as by creating self-help group federations.

Here’s one of their stories. R. Purushothaman, a 72-year-old from a farming family, says, “My wife is a homemaker and takes care of our livestock. My father was a policeman, who resigned his job to take care of my mother diagnosed with breast cancer. We borrowed loans to pay for her surgery and medical expenses. On top of this, it was difficult to cultivate crops because our water was salty, and we couldn’t make a living depending on money lenders to buy seeds, fertilizers etc. Most of the farmers faced similar problems. After the tsunami, we formed ESHGs and I’m a trustee of the national-level Elders’ Federation of Self-Help Groups. The federation gives us support through training programmes. We now have a borewell for paddy cultivation, thanks to a loan from ESHG. We also cultivate new crops.”

Such efforts give elders the confidence to lead a life of dignity. They are superheroes who do not wear red, blue or green; they wear grey.

Mathew Cherian is Director, HelpAge India


Photo Contest

The Hindu, in association with Birkbeck, University of London, and the Centre for Law Policy and Human Rights Studies, Chennai, is holding a national photo competition, The Working Elderly. This is your chance to get involved in making the work of elderly people visible. Let’s get them the recognition they deserve by showing them in a positive light. Submit pictures, vote for the pictures you like and share them on social media. Encourage everyone you know to participate with photo entries or as voters.

The prize money is Rs. 20,000, Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 5,000 for the first, second and third places respectively. Three runners-up will receive commendations. The Most Voted Picture will receive Rs. 5,000. The judges are Aruna Roy (social activist), Rajiv Menon (filmmaker and cinematographer) and D. Krishnan (Photo Editor, The Hindu)

Entry closes at 11 p.m. on July 21. For details and to view photos, visit

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