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Companionship to overcome old age blues

Liffy Thomas
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Two is company: Peers in the same age group could be great companions for the elderly, say experts. Senior citizens take a morning walk at Anna Nagar Tower Park in Chennai. Photo: M. Vedhan
Two is company: Peers in the same age group could be great companions for the elderly, say experts. Senior citizens take a morning walk at Anna Nagar Tower Park in Chennai. Photo: M. Vedhan

They are a phone call away and ready to accompany the elderly to the hospital, play a game of chess or simply give company for a few hours. Life may become drab and lonely for some who are old and many a time it is another elderly person who is seen as the best companion. Quite a few non-governmental organisations are realising this when they get requests from different age groups to volunteer for the senior citizens.

“We need more volunteers but we are keen on getting more senior citizens as they understand the feelings of their peer group better,” says A.R. Sreeja, General Manager, Dignity Foundation, Chennai.

The organisation working for the elderly has nearly 30 volunteers enrolled with them for ‘companionship' service they offer, but the 20 who are active are all above the age of 50. For Lakshmi Anand (73), sometimes the request call comes from Dignity Foundation, but she also goes on her own, for such is the rapport she has created over the years. “Going for a stroll, having a cup of tea or buying medicine, listening to them of all…these are some of the requests I get,” says Ms. Anand, who spends one to two hours with them.

HelpAge India also offers a similar kind of service where they get at least six calls a week. Most sought-after requirements include accompanying one to the hospital, going to a temple or listening to an emotional outburst, say representatives of HelpAge India. It currently has 35 active volunteers in the 30-50 age group, and is working out different campaigns to see if such volunteer groups could be created in every locality. Other organisations such as Senior Citizens Bureau had such companionship service but members say they discontinued it as it became difficult to sustain it as either the time doesn't suit the volunteer or distance becomes an issue. School and college students used to volunteer for us, but as they finished their schooling, there are no juniors to continue, said M. Singaraja, a member.

For senior citizens who are lonely, many a time it is another elderly person who is seen as the best companion

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