9 August, 2020
Samarth Eldercare has set up a helpline (91+ 8800699599) for the elderly. They can call on this number if they need help with food supplies and medicines, or arranging doctor consultations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the elderly population of the country especially vulnerable. Senior citizens, many of whom have children living overseas or in other cities, are finding it hard to manage even day-to-day chores, get essentials like food supplies and medicines, and arrange doctor consultations in the absence of proper support.
The geriatric population is more at risk owing to lower immunity levels and co-morbidities. This is the reason why the government has been urging those over 60 years of age to stay indoors and minimise contact with people, including extended family members and friends, since the start of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended mandatory self-isolation for older adults from society. This lack of mobility is adversely affecting the elderly whose only social contact is out of the home – at places of worship or local parks. To aggravate this, the anxiety of illness and death for themselves and their loved ones has become a major challenge for society at large.
Take the case of 98-year-old PP Agarwal, who lives all by himself in Jaipur. The nonagenarian was finding it tough to arrange for his food and medical supplies. More importantly, since he is living all alone, he needs someone to talk to.
The situation was similar for Delhi-based Harjindar Singh, who was getting help from his family and relatives to get his rations and essentials when the lockdown began in March. Soon after, the 76-year-old was left high and dry when he was suddenly left to fend for himself.
Over 2000 calls received
Both Agarwal and Singh chanced upon the helpline (91+ 8800699599) of Samarth Eldercare, a community for senior citizens in India, which has been reaching out to those in need in these testing times. Using their network of volunteers spread across the country, members from Samarth contacted the senior citizens and immediately addressed their concerns.
Since the start of the pandemic, the helpline has been buzzing with calls. In the last one month (since June 29), over 725 calls have been received by them.
The troubles are not just for groceries, daily supplies and medicines. Even getting a simple haircut has become an impossible task that needs intervention. Eighty-one-year old SN Mathur, who lives in Delhi, wanted someone “safe” to come home and give him a trim. But he had no idea how to arrange for it.
The sudden switch to e-commerce platforms and technology for even basics like medicines and groceries has left many from the older generations crippled, as technology is something that doesn’t come intuitively to them.
A recent back injury had left Shekhar Shah, a 75-year-old resident of Mumbai, completely bed ridden. Shah wanted to order food, but did not know how to use a delivery app. The team from Samarth went to him and helped him place his first order. “He was delighted as if he had discovered a hidden treasure, having regained his independence by using online food delivery apps,” said a Samarth volunteer.
Deteriorating mental health among senior citizens
Another area which is sounding serious alarm bells is mental health. The elderly heavily depend on social connection. With no one to talk to and nowhere to go, many elderly citizens are reporting signs of anxiety and depression. Satya Pal Gupta, a 70-year-old resident of loneliness and depression, was finding it tough to keep his mental peace during the pandemic.
“Our helpline team spoke to him and addressed his anxieties and worries like a son or daughter would. He was further connected with a professional support for counselling,” the volunteer added. Other helpline requests range from food and medical to arranging house help, reporting abuse and financial assistance.
Samarth Eldercare has also collaborated with universities and institutions such as JKLU in Jaipur, Manav Rachna & LBSIM in NCR to strengthen its network, involve the youth and reach out to as many people as possible. The organisation has 111 volunteers at present.
Samarth teams have been in regular touch with elderly homes in Delhi-NCR, Jaipur, Bhilwara and Chennai to see what they are in need of. The organisation arranged donation drives to secure these items. In the last few months, they have arranged for food supplies and ready meals, items of need such as bedding, as well as funds and donations for these homes.
As published in Hindustan Times
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