Sunday, July 14, 2024

Ageing made fun

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With the hustle-bustle lifestyle that we live in, many tend to not be able to take care of their own parents. But not anymore! This week for the Community Wise edition, we bring to you about the HelpAge Foundation, which is working towards making the lives of the elderly better.

Shikha Duggal

Taking care of ageing parents is draining the kids physically and financially—a bitter truth. The hustle and bustle of modern life make it nearly impossible to care for the elderly at home! It calls for the services of emotionally mature and empathetic personnel, which are lacking in us these days.To enable a few children to lead a guilt-free life and at the same time keep their parents happy too: there is the HelpAge Foundation.

“Established in 1978, the organisation works to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged older people. I am envisioning a society where the elderly have the right to an active, healthy, and dignified life! It was recently honoured with the ‘UN Population Award 2020’ for its exemplary work in the field of ageing, relief efforts work during the pandemic, and recognition of the organization’s outstanding contribution to population issues and efforts in the realisation of older persons’ rights in India,” explained Anupama Dutta, the organisation’s executive director.

Addressing elder needs and advocating for their rights, such as their right to a universal pension, quality healthcare, action against elder abuse, and many more, at a national, state, and societal level with governments.“From rescuing an elder from Karachi to having no husband post-independence and being mistreated by her own children, she is still with the organisation today at the age of 73.

Another case, for example, is when a man suddenly lost his vision and his friends abandoned him; with everybody gone, he wanted to commit suicide. That’s when our organisation rescued him too,” she added.

The elderly, who are destitute, sick, and abandoned by family, as well as those uprooted by disasters, require a roof over their heads. And so the NGO established a model homes for senior citizens.

“Cataract is one of the major causes of blindness in them. They cannot afford treatment. So the NGO conducts cataract surgeries.Credible and competent eye hospitals and organisations carry out surgeries. All surgeries under the programme are performed only in base hospitals and not in makeshift camps.

Since 1980, this programme has benefited more than 9 lakh elders, not just by restoring their sight but by enabling them to go back to work and live a life of dignity. Cancer treatment in our country is also highly-priced, and the majority of elders are not covered by any form of medical insurance. Therefore, the biggest challenge has been to provide sustained healthcare interventions for needy elderly cancer patients.

They provide palliative care to end-stage cancer patients in partnership with a number of credible cancer hospitals. These partners also conduct cancer awareness and cancer detection camps. Natural calamities revealed that in the struggle for survival, the elderly are usually the last in line, lost in the crowd, and therefore suffer the most.

The Foundation started its disaster intervention programmes in the year 1980. The first of its kind among voluntary organizations, its unit was trained and equipped to provide swift and effective countermeasures in the face of disasters.

Today, their disaster response model is equipped to rush in quickly to reach out not only to the elderly but also to the community at large, providing relief with food, clothing, and shelter to establish long-lasting rehabilitation programs. This is why, they could immediately respond to disasters such as the earthquakes in Gujarat and J&K, the floods in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha, the cloudbursts in Leh and Uttarakhand, and the tsunami in Tamil Nadu.

A testimony to long-lasting rehabilitation is the Tamaraikulam Elders Village constructed for the tsunami victims, made possible through generous donations from NDTV viewers. Located in Cuddalore, this model age-care facility provides a free stay facility for the rural poor with a capacity of 100 people and provides livelihood opportunities to its residents and elders nearby,” she said, highlighting some of the programmes they run.

The creeping prevalence of ageing societies isn’t just a challenge for national governments, policymakers, and healthcare providers to solve. It affects everyone who has, or will have, an elder family member or loved one in their lives — and not everyone is lucky enough to grow old with family. Remaining in good health as an older adult requires much more than what medication and treatment alone have to offer.

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