International day of older persons: In the twilight of their lives, they are left to fend for themselves at Little Sisters of the Poor and Aged, Bajjodi.
For 91-year-old Mathew D’Souza, ever since his two children relocated to Mumbai more than 15 years ago, he has been left in the lurch. With no income of his own, and with his children not even having dropped one line of enquiry about him, he relies on charity and goodwill for survival.
With sunk-in cheeks and limited motorability, 94-year-old Ligory D’Souza has stayed for 23 years at Little Sisters of the Poor and Aged, Bajjodi. Having scrapped out a living in fitter days as a daily-wage labourer – and having stayed single all his life – he had little to sustain him since he stopped working two decades ago.
On the occasion of World Elders’ Day celebrated on Tuesday, they remain living symbols of the changing attitudes in society.
As P.T. Shenoy, vice-president of the Senior Citizen’s Association, says during a formal function at the old-age home: “Our tradition used to revere the aged, treat them like gods. This is changing now as families become smaller and more distant.”
In a list of demands presented to District in-charge Minister B. Ramanath Rai, the association demanded strict adherence to reservation for senior citizens in buses; lower footboards on buses to help senior citizens board; 25 per cent discount on KSRTC buses for senior citizens; better footpaths and safe walking areas in the city for the elderly; seating spaces and special arrangements for the aged in government offices; increase in the amount given under Sandhya Suraksha pension scheme to Rs. 2,000 monthly from the Rs. 500 given currently.
Having crossed 60 years of age, Mr. Rai joked that the day was for him too. “I’m pained when I see the aged in old-age homes. They should have stayed at home with their families, but a lot of people are sent out after a certain age. In this case, it is up to the government to take care of them,” he said.
Listing out the schemes for senior empowerment, the Minister said aid to old-age homes had been increased to Rs. 8 lakh per year, travel discounts, pension schemes, and distribution of ID cards. “However, on the Sandhya Suraksha, we have asked the Revenue Department to simplify the procedure,” he said.