VARISHTH Mera SAATHI!(SENIORS Our PARTNERS!) Bringing Happiness Among Elders ‘SAATHI To Our Happy Elders’ programme Organized by Urwa Police Station under the dynamic leadership of Police Inspector Ms Bharathi, in association with PAGE (People’s Association for Geriatric Empowerment); Manashanthi Counselling & Research Centre, Mangaluru; Sanmathi Charitable Trust Mangaluru; Lions Club/Leo Club- Mangaluru; joined by 82 students divided into 12 groups, as volunteers from St Aloysius College-PG Students; AJ Institute of Hospital Administration, Mangaluru; St Agnes College, Bendore, Mangaluru; School of Social Work Roshni Nilaya, Valencia, Mangaluru and MAPS, Kadri, Mangaluru.
Mangaluru: Neglect and abuse, that is the reality of India’s elderly people, including Mangaluru. We often assume that our greatest dangers are from strangers on dark streets or from violent men who might break into our houses. The sad truth is that the highest perils of brutal and persistent violence lurk within the intimate spaces of our homes, from those to whom we are closest. If you interact with seniors living alone in homes and apartments you will be stunned that every second elderly person will narrate the suffering abuse within their families, most of them neglected or abandoned by their siblings.
Long ago when I visited a home for the aged, and while interacting with a 74-year-old woman and told her that her son will be sending a refrigerator to keep her food etc cold, the reply from her was “Tell my son to put that refrigerator on my grave after my death?” This shows that elders look for love and respect from their children, and not their gifts etc. Gone are those days when parents used to live with their children till their last breath-not any more because many siblings either put them in old-age homes or simply neglect them. Relationships within families have come under great strain. Ugly cracks are beginning to show. And you can see a bunch of old-age/retirement homes mushrooming in town, as a money-making tactic, rather than taking real good of the inmates. Oh well!
In many villages, you will see desperately poor households migrating for work in the cities, leaving their old parents behind, to beg or invisibly die of hunger. I try not to judge them, and their parents mostly do not as well, because of the desperation of their children’s wants. Such is the agony of many senior citizens in the City too and in remote places, where they live alone, intentionally left behind by their siblings, and now they have to suffer for all the efforts and love shown towards their children in bringing them up.
Recently during Police Commissioner Kuldeep Kumar R Jain’s Phone-In programme held on 4 August 2023, one of the 35 callers complained with the issue that many senior citizens are living alone in homes and apartments, and many are neglected with no one taking care of them or checking on them. Acting quickly on that issue, the police commissioner directed the personnel of all the city police stations to visit the residents of seniors in their areas and check on their present living conditions, staying alone- and the campaign began to check on the senior citizens living alone in the City.
On Sunday, 20 August, to Bring Happiness Among Elders ‘SAATHI To Our Happy Elders’ programme was organized by Urwa Police Station under the dynamic leadership of Police Inspector Ms Bharathi, in association with PAGE (People’s Association for Geriatric Empowerment); Manashanthi Counselling & Research Centre, Mangaluru; Sanmathi Charitable Trust Mangaluru; Lions Club/Leo Club- Mangaluru; joined by 82 students as volunteers divided into 12 groups, from St Aloysius College-PG Students; AJ Institute of Hospital Administration, Mangaluru; St Agnes College, Bendore, Mangaluru; School of Social Work Roshni Nilaya, Valencia, Mangaluru and MAPS, Kadri, Mangaluru. These associations and Urwa Police Station joined together to CARE, SUPPORT, EMPATHIZE, & Bring a SMILE to the Faces of the Senior Citizens, living in the areas/limits under Urwa police station- and the 82 volunteers along with police personnel visited 215 senior citizens’ residences.
The programme began with a prayer by Urwa police constable Venugopal, who was also the compere, followed by a welcome address by Sub Inspector Ms Bharathi of Urwa Police Station. Inauguration of the programme was done by Dr Raghuveer C V along with his wife, Dr Prabha Adhikari, trustees of Spoorthi Charitable Trust; joined by Prof. Rameela Shekar- founder of Manashanthi Counselling Research and Training Centre (MCRTC), Mangaluru; police inspector Ms Bharathi; coordinators Lion Nirmala Heri and Joint Coordinator of Saathi Lion Hema Rao, Secretary of Lions Club Mangalore Lion Rajesh Victor Heri, Treasurer Lion Shivaram Rai, and PAGE Treasurer Lion Mohan Raj and Leo President Chris Tellis; Ms Kushala Ishwar-Chairman of Sanmathi Charitable Trust; among others.
President of PAGE, Dr Prabha Adhikari spoke about Saathi, and Dr Rameela Shekhar spoke about the Saathi survey, and Lion Sheena Pujary spoke about Zionism. Dr Adhikari recollected that initiatives to help elderly people bond with the young were launched some 40 years ago by (late) Dr Olinda Pereira, the founder of Vishwas Trust, Mangaluru. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Raghuveer said, ” A bonding between elderly people and students will help senior citizens to dispel feelings of being lonely and unsafe”.
Prof Rameela Shekar said they decided to go full steam ahead with the initiative of building rapport with lonely elderly people after receiving support from Mangaluru Police Commissioner Kuldeep Kumar R Jain and ACP (Traffic) Ms Geetha Kulkarni. It was dynamic and committed Urwa police Inspector Ms Bahrathi who first proposed the idea of a pilot survey. A questionnaire with over 15 questions would help students to understand the psycho-social needs of elderly people such as the need to go out or whether they need any specific help”
Prof Rameela further said, “With the help of police, various associations, educational institutions, hospitals and student volunteers we will try to address the problems faced by these seniors. I appeal to students to maintain confidentiality and focus on building a relationship by posing simple questions. The survey is not a favour for elderly citizens but for ourselves, and such an initiative would give a lot of satisfaction. After the completion of survey data, support volunteers will be enlisted to make visits to the residences of the elderly folks at regular intervals”
Speaking to Team Mangalorean, as to how SAATHI came into existence, Secretary of Lions Club Mangalore Ln Rajesh Victor Heri said, ” PAGE had a program called Buddies which had students go and visit the senior citizens and would interact with them twice a month and also assist them in their medical and other matters. But during the exam period of students, the students were unable to meet them so PAGE decided to take the help of the Lions and a team was formed with the Lions Club of Mangalore headed by President Ln Sheena Pujary and Saathi came into existence on 5 August 2023 with Lion Nirmala Heri as the Coordinator and Lion Hema Rao as the Joint Coordinator. As the Police also conducting a similar program Dr Rameela Shekhar coordinated with them and the Mangaluru Commissioner of Police was happy to collaborate with us and he contacted ACP Mahesh Kumar and SI Bharathi to do the needful and started the program “Saathi Need Based Survey” A similar study was conducted under Barke jurisdiction and the data of both these survey reports will be formulated soon”.
Team Mangalorean spoke to a couple of student volunteers who took part in this Saathi survey of elders- ” We went to 10 to 15 houses in the area and had nice chats with the senior citizens. I was really happy because they told us about their problems like health issues and feeling lonely. I enjoyed talking with them, they treated us nicely and were friendly. This is what I feel about “Senior Saathi.”- said Ms Chaitra, an MSW student from St Aloysius College, Mangaluru.
Ms M.A.Soujanya, a IIIrd B Sc St Agnes College student said” This program was to engage and listen to the experiences of elderly people with an intent to provide quality service towards the elderly community of Mangaluru. We the students of St Agnes College Autonomous, Department of Psychology were extremely honoured and grateful to extend our help towards the community. Our journey in this Survey, “Need Based Survey For Senior Citizens” started with the inauguration program hosted at the Urwa Police Station. The students divided into teams were allotted different areas, to seek elderly people and conduct the survey. The experience in itself was a lesson learnt”
.”Communicating with the elderly people was an interaction that shall be cherished with sweet messages and treats from the participants of the survey. The willingness, curiosity and zeal to answer questions enthusiastically was an energy booster to the students, in our efforts to help in future. From admiringly talking about their grandkids to their life lives with their spouses, we were blessed to hear about their experiences. In addition to having fun, we were able to listen to their concerns and needs with a promise to address the issues at hand. A Sunday spent well brings a week of content.” We concluded the day with happy smiles and content hearts” added Ms Soujanya.
Yet another Red B Sc St Agnes student, Ms Ayesha Heeba said, “Today’s program started by lighting the traditional lamp and a prayer. We were briefed about the survey. In total, there were 82 volunteers from various colleges. We were divided into groups and the survey sheets were distributed. One police personnel was appointed for each group. We departed from Urwa police station and went to Bejai. We went from door to door enquiring about the presence of elderly people. We interacted with a lot of people and got to know their stories. It was a new experience. We reached the police station at 1 PM and had lunch. After a small awareness programme conducted by the Urva police station on 112 number usage, we departed home with happy memories”.