On personal choice or driven by various familial compulsions, elderly people are increasingly choosing old-age homes for a hassle-free living
When Major General S.C. Gupta lost his wife after 45 years of blissful married life, he was shattered. A Veer Chakra recipient for gallantry in Indo-Pak war of 1971, Gen. Gupta had married a Mizo girl in 1962. They had two daughters, both of whom are married and settled in Singapore. He had bought a house in Belgaum where he was posted before his retirement with the hope of spending the rest of his life in the quiet surroundings of this place with his loving wife. But that was not to be and his wife died after some years; he was left alone. Subsequently, he sold the house and came to live in Godhuli, a senior citizens’ home at Dwarka in Delhi.
Guna Jagjit Singh, who turned ninety about six months ago, came to Godhuli along with her husband who has since died. Always elegantly dressed and as chirpy as ever despite old age restricting her movements, Naani, as she is called by all, is a source of strength to many.
Ninety-three-year-old Mrs. Warner, the oldest resident of Godhuli, is still an active member of the group that holds bridge sessions every day.
A retired chief engineer of Delhi government, M.S. Gupta, who came to Godhuli only recently, says, “I have come to seek peace in the company of my age group.” His children, he says, had no time for him, and so rather than fret and fume and make himself and others unhappy, he decided to shift to Godhuli.
Why these people chose to shift to an old age home? It was out of sheer loneliness, or neglect or the indifference of their children or the insecure environment prevailing in big cities that they decided to shift to Godhuli. Children of many are settled abroad and they do not want to spend the evening of their lives in alien surroundings or stay with their married daughters.
Home to 60 residents, the home is spread over an acre with rooms meant for both single occupants and couples. In winters, many of the residents can be seen sunbathing in the sprawling lawns or simply enjoying the greenery or playing croquet. Indoors, they spend their time playing cards or Sudoku, reading books, gossiping or watching TV. Many wait eagerly for the Tombola game that is organised every week. In the mornings, they walk in the lawns or exercise in the gym to keep fit.
During the evenings, old melodious film songs or ghazals fill the air so that none feels depressed and many hum their way to the dining hall for dinner.
Run by Servants of Peoples Society, a non-profit outfit, Godhuli also has medical facilities and round the clock security. Sometimes cultural programmes and other activities are organised to entertain the residents.
In today’s fast-paced life, most of the children are not able to spend quality time with their parents. Senior citizens, too, want their space and independence without having to bother about day-to-day running of households and hence prefer such homes.
Amita who is married and settled in America says that it would not have been possible for her to live in peace thousands of miles away from her parents if she was not confident that they are comfortable in this home for the senior citizens.
There are several old age homes run by the government, voluntary organizations or private trusts in Delhi. Slowly but surely, the trend is picking up and it is becoming acceptable in modern day India for the elderly to live in such homes. It is true that they might not get the kind of emotional support their children and grand children could have provided but the bonding with people of their own age group gives them a feel of a home away from home.