India's tech hub Bangalore has more than half a million senior citizens, of whom nearly 90 per cent are without any pension benefits, forcing many of them to go on working for a living and compete in a market that prefers young blood.
T. Rameshwar, 65, retired as a teacher at a private school about five years ago. With his meagre savings fast dwindling, he is on the lookout for a job as he is healthy and fit. There are hundreds like him in Bangalore.
Rameshwar has not got a job, but he has not given up hope as an NGO is helping him and other senior citizens registered with it in their hunt for jobs.
"Most elders after retirement are physically and mentally fit to work. But without any regular income or economic security like pension benefits, they are in dire need of some remunerative occupation for their sustenance," Radha S. Murthy, managing trustee of Nightingales Medical Trust working for the cause of senior citizens, told IANS.
The trust runs the Elders Economic Security Initiative and helps senior citizens in need of financial support look for employment opportunities.
The initiative, started in 2003, has helped 72 senior citizens get jobs and has 500 more registered with it.
"The initiative aims at facilitating opportunities for economic security for non-pensioned low income senior citizens who have very little savings and are hard hit by the rising cost of living. The initiative believes the best means of ensuring economic security to them is through useful employment as work does not recognise age," Murthy added.
Swati, a coordinator of the project, said: "In spite of their skills and efficiency, most of the established companies of Bangalore have shown little interest in employing elderly people. They prefer young blood, rather than the experience and wisdom of an old employee."
The project targets part time jobs in private schools, libraries, and small scale industries.
"We've created a database of senior citizens, above 60 years, who are fit to work and are genuinely in need of post-retirement placement and prepared to work for a minimum four hours a day. Accordingly, we look for potential employers, who could be partners in this social cause," said Swati.
Job seekers have been classified on the basis of their skills, abilities, interests and requirements.
"We regularly conduct orientation programmes for the senior citizens to keep them abreast with the latest development," added Swati.
According to figures available with Karnataka's Department of Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens, Bangalore city had 565,668 elderly people in a total population of 5.28 million in 2007.
"Almost 87 per cent of the elderly population in the city is living without any pension benefits," said an official of the department requesting anonymity.
It is a pan-Indian problem, where senior citizens suffer from financial insecurity because of lack of access to pension benefits, a source said.
India is home to over 76.6 million people over the age of 60. Around 89 percent of them are not covered under any post-retirement economic security schemes, according to "old age social and income security", a project commissioned by the Indian government in 2000.
The projected elderly population of India by 2025 will be 160 million.
"With the change in lifestyle and advancement of medical sciences, elders are living longer. Most of them are also fit to work. Breakdown of the traditional joint family system and an exorbitant increase in cost of living have drastically reduced the level of economic security of most elders," said Murthy.
Most of the elderly job seekers have one thing in common - "all are in dire need of money and have no other option than to work to earn their livelihood," he added.
Lamented Rameshwar, whose three children have settled abroad: "When I retired I never thought that I would have to work again. But I am forced to work now as I have no one to look after me and my wife."
Similar is the case of Prakash Reddy, 63, who is working as a salesman in a city bookstore. He got the job under the initiative of the Nightingale trust.
"I am childless and without any saving. Who will look after me and my wife if I don't work?" Reddy asked.
Shanta Chatterji, a member of Helpage India, said: "The maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens bill, 2007, should be implemented soon. The bill makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens.
"The implementation of the bill would definitely help in addressing the financial and emotional security of the elderly population in the country."