A community of volunteers from different walks of life will offer their time and energy to support the needs of the elderly.

Old age can be tricky. People are living longer, but their quality of life is not always the best. Many suffer from physical ailments and their mental faculties begin to dim with age. They often need emotional and physical support, but don’t have their families living close by to offer that help. So many go to old-age homes, where they depend on newly acquired friends or neighbours for help. Others who cannot afford to live in these homes end up being isolated.

But a novel initiative thought of by a group of doctors working in the geriatric department in the city could make things a whole lot easier for the elderly. Parivu, a Senior Citizens Society which will be launched on September 29 will have volunteers from different age groups and various walks of life coming forward to take care of the old people and their needs.

These volunteers are spread across the city and will be available on call to help the elderly take care of activities ranging from the mundane to the urgent.

“The aim of Parivu is to help the elderly population with the activities they are unable to do on their own due to their age. This could range from everyday tasks such as grocery shopping and paying their utility bills to more serious issues like medical care or hospitalisation, for which they will need assistance. We are getting volunteers who will dedicate their time and energy to help them take care of these needs,” says Rahul Padmanabhan, a consultant at the Geriatric Department of G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial Hospital (GKNM) and one of the founders of Parivu.

The organisation plans to bring together volunteers from different walks of life. The city and it’s nearby suburbs will be divided into zones and each zone will have a group of volunteers. Through a custom-made software, volunteers who have signed up will be sent a group message in case an elderly person from their area requires help. The first person to respond to the message gets in touch with the person needing help directly. Volunteers will also be trained by specialists on skills such as basic cardiac life support (BCLS), soft skills to communicate easily with the elderly, counselling and moving a frail elder person to an ambulance when the need arises. The training will be conducted on weekends over a period of two months.

For the volunteers who have signed up, this is a good way to give back to the elders, and also gives them an additional sense of security. “I recently retired as the Principal of a private school and have a lot more time on hand. I plan to spend this time volunteering to help the elders. Older people often feel insecure and need somebody to talk to and spend time with them,” says Roshini Edward, a volunteer.

Other volunteers hope for a return to the joint family system in the long run. “We have been living in a joint family system for many years, and would like that trend to come back. My mother-in-law, who is in her 80s, gets along very well with us and her grandchildren. We take her to watch the latest movies which she enjoys. Being a volunteer for this organisation serves as a natural extension,” says Sandhya Nagarajan, another volunteer.

Parivu plans to recognise the best performing volunteers with certificates and will tie up with NGOs with a similar job profile and institutions having Social Work programmes.