Even something as small as a boulder can make life difficult for the elderly, Lidwin Lobo, who runs the helpline for senior citizens, said during an interaction organised here on Thursday.

The interaction was organised by Vishwas Trust, a non-governmental organisation working for the welfare of the elderly.

Speaking about the problems of the elderly, Ms. Lobo said that for a couple in Moodushedde, entry and exit to their house was a problem because of old age.

She said the entrance of their house had been blocked by a huge boulder. They had gone to the gram panchayat several times requesting that it be removed so that at least an autorickshaw could reach their house. Even calls from the helpline had had no effect on the authorities, Ms. Lobo said. Vidya Dinker, an activist who participated in the discussion, said the city's infrastructure was not people-friendly, let alone elderly-friendly. The pavements were not accessible to the aged. Inaccessible public spaces had made the city's senior citizens “invisible”, she added.

Ms. Pereira said they had approached public institutions to put in place ramps and handrails so that the elderly could access public places with more ease.

The old age pension provided by the government was too low at Rs. 400, Ms. Pereira said. Lidwin Lobo, who runs the toll-free helpline for senior citizens (1090), said the elderly faced harassment from both their children as well as neighbours.

Director of the trust Olinda Pereira said it should be the government's responsibility to provide social security for the elderly while it was the duty of the children of aged persons to remember the love and care that their parents had showed them.

Trustee Celine Aranha said the government should have a sound pension system in place so that when people get old, they had something to fall back upon. Ms. Lobo said the helpline got around 50 to 60 calls a month requesting for help in a variety of cases. Sometimes the helpline staff had to seek the assistance of the police.

Ms. Pereira said there were about five organisations in the city working for the welfare of the elderly and that they had gotten together to fight for their rights and push for their demands. They visited schools and colleges to sensitise them about the problems faced by senior citizens, she said. There was a need to include gerontology and geriatrics as areas of study in universities, she said.

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