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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

40% of Mumbai’s seniors live alone Helplines For Elderly Getting More Calls

Mumbai: The death of an elderly couple in Kandivli and the murder of an octogenarian in Chembur have yet again put the spotlight on the loneliness and isolation senior citizens in Mumbai contend with every day. At least three senior citizens have been murdered in the city this month alone. 

    Officials at HelpAge India, a voluntary organisation which works for the welfare of senior citizens, estimate that nearly 39% of the elderly in the Maximum City live alone or with their ageing spouses. "Many of them live, suffer and die alone," says HelpAge's director Prakash Borgaonkar. 
    Borgaonkar points out that many ageing couples' children are working and settled abroad. Or the children have moved out and are living separately in the suburbs, with little regular contact with their parents. 
    Left confined within the four walls of their homes and devoid of company, many seniors are pushed into a cycle of loneliness and despair. "Loneliness is a major problem among this demographic group and it often leads to depression, which makes senior citizens even more reticent and withdrawn from the society," says Dr S Kinjawadekar, president of the All India Senior
Citizens' Confederation. 
    The despair is reflected in the growing number of calls received on helplines for the elderly. The police helpline for senior citizens got 24,863 calls in 2011, up from 18,300 in 2008. While this may be an outcome of more awareness about the helplines, counsel
lors believe it also indicates a growing want among seniors to reach out for help. Both Dignity Foundation and HelpAge India receive about six calls on their helplines daily where the old just want to speak to someone. "Longevity is increasing and those beyond 80 feel more lonely," says Dr Kinjawadekar. 
    Sheilu Sreenivasan, founder of Dignity Foundation, believes the elderly—even those living alone—can get more positiveness in their lives through willpower and effort. "Much of old age is in one's own hands and unrelated to money or chil
dren. It is entirely up to you how you grow old and not get old," she says. Sreenivasan recommends that senior citizens should get out of their homes, seek volunteers' help and enrol in elderly associations and peer groups. 
    Geriatricians list the host of alternatives availa
ble to the elderly. They can join laughter clubs or walkers' groups, where friendships are formed. "Senior citizens should also keep in touch with relatives or neighbours occasionally so that someone would be alerted if they feel unwell or need help," advises Borgaonkar. THE FAMILY Maneklal Shah (76) and his wife Surbala (66) lived in a ground floor flat in Park View building in Kandivli (West).Maneklal was a homeopath doctor but had given up the practice due to old age. Police said the couple mostly ordered food in. Maneklal's elder brother is also a doctor; he lives in Mumbai The Shahs adopted Neeraj from an orphanage when he was two. Now 23, he lived with the couple and perform most of the household chores. He worked in a general 
    store across the road from the Shahs' residence. According to police officers, Neeraj is mentally unsound 

HELP A CALL AWAY 24-hour police helpline for senior citizens | 1090 
HelpAge India (toll-free) (Monday-Saturday; 9.30am to 5.30pm) | 1800-180-1253 
Dignity Foundation (Monday-Friday; 3pm to 6pm) | 
Population of senior citizens (above 60) in Mumbai 
10 lakh 

Estimate of 
seniors living 
alone in the city 

Calls received on 
police helpline 
in 2011 
    Inform the local police station so that beat officials can drop by and keep a check 
    Join a senior citizens' association in the neighbourhood to network with other elderly people 

    Register the local domestic help with the police station 
    Lonely elders can call any of the several helplines and anonymously share their concerns 

    Seek entertainment by joining a laughter club, a walkers' club, a card-playing club, etc. 
    Keep in touch with neighbours or relatives so that any change in the daily routine is noticed

Bed-ridden for months, Surbala Shah (66) asked son Neeraj, who police described as mentally unsound, for water on Sunday evening

Neeraj said he spoke to his 76-year-old father, Maneklal Shah, on Monday afternoon. Maneklal too was unwell since a while

On Tuesday morning, Neeraj tried waking up his parents. When the two did not respond, the 23-year-old got confused and decided to seek help

Neeraj ran across the road from his Kandivli residence and alerted the owner of a general store where he is employed as a delivery boy

The storeowner found a strong stench emanating from the house. He immediately informed the police and the couple's relatives


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