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LAUGHING THE BLUES AWAY With changing lifestyles and financial independence, old age is also happening
LAUGHING THE BLUES AWAY With changing lifestyles and financial independence, old age is also happening

Senior citizens take to enthusiastic social work to make their retired lives meaningful

There are picnics and excursions. There are visits to slums, old age homes and orphanages. Joint celebration of birthdays and anniversaries, socialising, teaching and listening to talks on good health, spirituality and meditation. With changing lifestyles and financial independence, old age is also happening.Old people are now shifting focus from merely babysitting grandchildren to doing other things like yoga, travelling, and especially, community service.Post-retirement, 70-year-old R. Rajagopalan is happy wearing different hats - as president of a walkers' association, head of a home for destitute children, and as a medical co-coordinator-cum-administrator. His day begins at crack of the dawn with a brisk two-hour walk and he spends the later part of the day at the home. "In the evenings I go to our children's unit to ensure personal hygiene and attend to the medical needs of the children. Talking to visitors is also my responsibility," he adds.He says there is a lot that one can give back to the society in old age."It is the golden period in anyone's life and such activities give a lot of positive benefits and takes away the feeling of loneliness which creeps in once you start getting old."The morning get-together with the members of the walkers' association is not just about walking - there is tennis and cricket, physical exercises, yoga and meditation. This is usually followed by charting out plans for a variety of programmes like health camps, blood donation and short trips with family members. "We also have our monthly visit to orphanages and old age homes to distribute clothes, household items and groceries."Seventeen years as teacher and 16 years as principal of a central school, Annapurna Swaminathan at 67 enjoys doing voluntary service and reaching out to the needy. "This is not the age to earn but give back to the society the wealth of our experience," she says. Apart from taking classes for poor students, she finds solace in visiting orphanages and in entertaining people at old age homes.For some, it is the quality time spent with family that keeps loneliness at bay. Lalit Kumar Kikani's day begins with two hours of morning walk chanting prayers, another 30-minute walk with his wife, a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and unlimited time with the grandson. "Every other day, I go to the laughter club for 15 minutes of laughter, five minutes of jokes and 15 minutes of aerobic exercises," he says."Doing social service is the best part-time activity in old age," says Pratap Pujara who spends two hours every morning with a voluntary organisation that serves food to various orphanages in the city. "It gives my mornings a nice start."A range of activities including staying connected with other people or with hobbies or continuing professional interests seems to be the recipe for successful ageing. As Dr. Rajagopalan puts it: "We share our knowledge with the younger generation during our monthly meeting and the respect and love they give in return is satisfying. After retirement, monetary benefits take a back seat."Physical fitness and a balanced diet are very important to be active in old age, says Indrani Rajadurai of Helpage India."After retirement, the old people can choose an activity that will put to good use their skills and keep themselves occupied physically, mentally and socially. This way, they can make a difference to the family, society and the community at large. They can set up their own clubs to meet, read newspapers and chit-chat and discuss community service." Inter-generation bonding between grandchildren and parents makes life after retirement an enjoyable phase. "Grandchildren should be educated to share their experiences at school with grandparents.A warm hug from grandchildren after they come back from school can make a lot of difference. The family members should feel the importance of the old people. Taking them out for functions and involving them in the decision making of important events in the family makes them feel special. In joint family systems, where both the parents are working, they still play the role of caregivers for the grandchildren," she says. K. JESHI

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