Karnataka plans to launch coordinated efforts to help the elderly

If indications from recent surveys are anything to go by, India’s elderly are feeling left out in the cold.   | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO BY BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

If the warning for senior citizens health-wise was very clear during the first wave of COVID-19, the subsequent months and the second wave this year have had a larger bearing, not just physically but also emotionally and financially. And if indications from recent surveys are anything to go by, India’s elderly are feeling left out in the cold.

This has prompted the government to think about reaching out to them. Uma Mahadevan, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, who is also the nodal officer for coordination with NGOs and corporates/private sector during the pandemic, told The Hindu that there were plans to rope in volunteers to check in on the elderly and help them out with issues ranging from pension to active ageing.

“We are planning to coordinate with organisations such as Nightingales Medical Trust (NMT) and HelpAge India, as well as the Department for the Empowerment of Differently-abled and Senior Citizens and the Department of Youth Empowerment, to train volunteers to visit senior citizens, say once a week. NSS volunteers will be trained to help them with their pension, health cards, MNREGA job cards, bank work etc., after an orientation programme. With doctors also prescribing active ageing, they can be taken to a library or some kind of activity,” she said.

This will be implemented across the State, reaching out to panchayats too so that the elderly in rural areas and villages are not left out, she added.

Recently, a HelpAge India six-city survey, ‘The Silent Tormentor: COVID-19 and the Elderly’, with a sample size of 3,526 respondents, shed light on the impact the pandemic has had on the elderly. Covering Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Chennai, it revealed how 13.7% of them felt “trapped and frustrated” despite living in close proximity with family members, and how 41.1% were dependent on family members financially.

Inhibiting health conditions made it harder for elders to cope during the pandemic.

Calls to helpline

The elders helpline too has been receiving hundreds of calls a day, with issues ranging from abuse and property disputes. The high number of fatalities in the second wave has also meant the loss of people near and dear.

Radha Murthy, managing trustee, NMT, said awareness among the elderly about their rights and support systems at hand had to be enhanced, and redressal efforts such as this one would help reach out to more people. “For example, many senior citizens cannot reach the health system because of the high medical costs, but they are not aware of health cards. They don’t go for regular checkups as they are not able to reach the place,” she said, adding that with plans to have volunteers help them, these issues could be resolved.

An aspect that has been highlighted before too is of active ageing. “We don’t spend enough on preventive care. Physical and cognitive exercise and socialising are important for active ageing. They help in bringing down blood pressure and keeping diabetes in check, as well as tackle risk factors for dementia. We need to look at healthy ageing,” Dr. Murthy added.

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 1:54:27 AM |

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