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Mugdha Variyar, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, October 07, 2012
On Friday, Jalpa Gangadev, 30, spent four hours with an elderly lady at a city hospital as she underwent her physiotherapy treatment. “Since she lives alone, she needed someone to take her to the hospital,” said Gangadev, a finance professional who volunteers for a not-for-profit organisation that works with senior citizens.

According to a survey conducted by HelpAge India this year, a not-for-profit organisation, 39% of the elderly in the city live alone. Most cases involved children who lived abroad or outside the city.

“We get almost eight calls on our helpline from the elderly every day, and many of them are from those who have no problems but just want to speak to someone because they are lonely,” said Prakash Borgaonkar, regional director, HelpAge India.

For senior citizens such as Goregaon-resident Kalyan Raman, 64, who has a heart problem and lives alone, indifference by neighbours and authorities was an issue. “I understand that everyone is busy with their lives and don’t have the time.

But it is the duty of the state to ensure that senior citizens are doing well,” said Raman.

Every day, as many as 1,500 senior citizens visit the three Borivli centres of Pushpama Foundation, an elder-support group, to engage in activities such as computer training, dance and music classes, and to visit the library.

“Engaging in activities with other members of their age group helps them in sharing their problems,” said Jimmy Dordi, who heads the organisation. 

Activists believe that an inter-generational approach can greatly help senior citizens fight loneliness. They also recommended that all senior citizens should register themselves with the police and also provide them with details of their domestic help.