Comfort and company to keep them going

KOCHI, FEB. 15. It's an idea that has come at the right time. And it had to be in Kerala first, for Kerala's men and women live much longer than those in other States as well as in most other countries.

The Elders' Village at Chottanikkara, a unique experiment in creating the right living atmosphere for the elderly, has started taking baby steps.

Last week, the first couple, in their 60s, moved into their cute little cottage in the `village.' The first single -- a retired unmarried school-teacher in her 70s -- also moved into her single-room apartment.

``In a couple of months, as we complete the first phase of the village, four more couples and three more singles will come to live in the village,'' K.V.J. Kamath, the secretary of the `village council', who is a former chief area manager of the Indian Oil's LPG division, told The Hindu.

He and his wife will be among them. By the end of the year, he hopes, all the 15 cottages and the 16 one-room apartments would be ready.

``The village is an alternative way of living for those who have retired after a fruitful career and whose children and relatives are far away minding their own careers,'' Mr. Kamath said.

The village combines the best of hostel life and life in an independent villa. The `villagers' do not need to cook -- though each of the cottages and apartments are equipped with a kitchenette -- as there is a permanent cook to cook for all in the common kitchen.

There will be a common reading room and library, assembly hall, prayer hall, recreational facilities, a driver and a vehicle on call. There will be guest rooms for visiting children and relatives of the villagers too.

``This is not an old-age home,'' says K.G.K. Pillai, a retired senior RBI officer, who along with his wife Thankam, was the first to move into the village.

``This is a place for calm and comfortable living in the company of like-minded people of one's own age group,'' adds Mr. Kamath.

Of course, the calm and comfort come with a price tag -- the cottage costs a little over Rs. 3 lakhs, with extra bills for adds-on.

The village -- sponsored by the Elders' Village Trust and set up on 90 cents of land -- is the outcome of a search for common living facilities for aged couples who find it difficult to cook, wash and manage their individual homes.

The elder people would also have the comfort of living in their own places. Mr. Pillai, who owned a large house of his own, sold off one section of it before moving to the village.

His children are happy that their parents would not have to worry about maintaining a large home, but at the same time would have company in a closely-knit neighbourhood of elderly people.

The 445-sq.ft. cottage on three cents of land each

has enough space for an elderly couple to live in. There would be eight 390-sq.ft. apartments in two two-storey buildings.

The Elder's Village is a trend-setter. More of its kind are sure to crop up in this State where old-age homes have found roots.

The collapse of the joint family setup, the `nuclearisation' of the family and the urbanisation of villages have created a generation of elder couples who lead an isolated life in their own homes.

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