“What is happening to the world? How can young girls be raped like this?” echoes the frail voice of a septuagenarian woman from the phone receiver.
“No sir. Who said you are alone? You are independent and must be proud of it,” a counsellor tells another senior citizen who was feeling sad that no one had time for him.
The scenes are from NGO Agewell Foundation’s office in Lajpat Nagar Part II where two helplines were set up on Monday to provide a willing ear to the concerns of the elderly.
Senior citizens can call either of the two numbers — 011 29836486 / 011 29840484. The NGO says the numbers are different from other helplines in that they provide a listener with whom they can have long conversations. The call centre has two counsellors and five volunteers.
The move comes after the NGO’s survey revealed that nearly 80% people in their twilight years complain of feeling “isolated” and experience “loneliness in their present life”.
According to the study conducted in and around Delhi, a majority attributed their loneliness to no or little interaction with family or within society.
Twenty three senior citizens — 15 were men and 8 women — called the helplines on Monday, the NGO said.
“The elderly start with general topics such as weather, politics and how the happenings across the world these days seem pessimistic. Gradually, they open up about how lonely they are,” said foundation chairman Himanshu Rath.
Rath said, in the calls received on Monday, women were more vocal and engaged in long conversations more quickly. “Men were more reserved and rather curious about the facilities provided in the service.”
In the next phase, the NGO plans to set up listening booths across the city for the elderly to walk in for a chat with the counsellors.
Called the ‘Agewell Listening Post for the Elderly’, the service will provide a support system for distressed elderly through counselling and guidance. Senior citizens can also just go to share their thoughts and life experiences.
“We also welcome senior citizens who would like to volunteer according to their backgrounds, hobbies, interests and convenience. Some of them are also being given digital training,” said a member of the foundation.