The classes are on offer, free of cost at the HelpAge India office in the evenings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

‘For close to four years, I was unable to walk without a knee-cap on and bending and picking up things was completely impossible’. This is the story of most people who cross the age of 60. Body aches, immobility and a general lack of confidence in one’s abilities are the scariest things of growing old.

“When I went to the United States of America a couple of years ago, I went for a 45-day course that changed my life. Now, I want to share it with the rest of the world,” Meenakshi explained.

Since she came back to Puducherry, Ms. Meenakshi has been teaching senior citizens across the town the secret to improve their quality of life. Through her ‘Relax and Rejuvenation Programme’, where she teaches a series of exercises that anyone, with any level of health and fitness, can do, she has managed to touch the lives of these people and allow them an independence that they had lost to old age.

“In most households, the elderly are neglected. When they want to get up and work, they are asked to sit down and stay out of housework. Their health also often prevents them from doing the things that they long to do. Even walking down to the shop to buy their own provisions is something they cannot imagine. Once the fear of not being able to do something catches up with you, your life becomes an everyday struggle. Through the Rest and Rejuvenation Programme, I started teaching these senior citizens how to do exercises without getting up from their chairs. Through the programme, they exercise every part of their body without exerting too much,” she said.

The program teaches slow movements that move all the joints in the body. The benefits of these exercises are seen in everyday life. Now, the people who started the programme a year ago are able to go for a walk on the beach, able to buy their own groceries and, most importantly, are able to live with dignity.

One such elderly person had been receiving treatment for bad knees and was contemplating a knee replacement surgery. She then started the course and within a year, she no longer had complaints of knee pain and was able to sit on the ground and get up with ease. There are several examples like this, where people over the age of 60 are now able to do things that they did in their youth, Ms. Meenakshi added.

“The idea is to have slow movements of each part of the body. One of the first exercises I teach my students is to extend their arms on either side a couple of times and then extend it out in front of them. For the knee joint, I encourage them to sit down on a chair, lift their feet off the ground and extend the leg as much as possibly and put it back down,” she said.

When she first came back to Puducherry, Ms. Meenakshi chanced upon the HelpAge India office on Rue Aurobindo and walked in. When she placed her proposal before the state in-charge of HelpAge India Venugopal Ramalingam, he immediately agreed.

So far, around 95 senior citizens have participated in the programme, and they have progressed from doing these exercises on a chair to doing them with a walking stick, Mr. Ramalingam said.

“Through the programme, not only did my joint pain reduce and I was able to walk again after several years, but also I made a number of friends through the classes. It has completely changed my life around,” one of the participants, A.S. Maria, said.

The classes are on offer, free of cost at the HelpAge India office in the evenings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. People interested in trying it out can either contact the HelpAge India office or call Ms. Meenakshi on 0413-2222404.