Mohan Tickoo, 76, and his wife Shanti Tickoo, 73, live in Pamposh Enclave in their three-bedroom house.
The lonely couple has employed a domestic help who takes care of all their needs and their house as well. The Tickoos have three children, two sons and a daughter — all settled in America.
“They call once a week. But it is not the same as them being here. We get lonely and Delhi is not a very safe city for the elderly. We have no option but to live here,” says Mohan Tickoo.
According to the Agewell Foundation, 17,000 people turn 60 year old every day in the country. Currently, China has the largest population of senior citizens in the world. India will overtake China in six years.
In Delhi, there are 11 lakh senior citizens — 1 lakh of whom live completely alone. Many have no home, money or family to fall back on.
The Delhi government runs only two old-age homes in the city. There are 30 more homes being run by private organizations. In all, just 2,000 senior citizens can be accommodated in these places.
According to Himanshu Rath, chairperson, Agewell Foundation, the problem is not just of availability but also of acceptance.
“The acceptance of old-age homes remains low in the country. If it were a profitable venture, there would be homes in every corner. But a couple has to pay around Rs 12,000 per month to live in a dormitory. This excludes their medical and other expenses,” he says.
According to several surveys and reports, it is not financial dependence or shortage that hits senior citizens the hardest. It is the loneliness.
"For a number of senior citizens, employing domestic helps is the only way of support. There are serious issues of loneliness, abuse and property being snatched away from them," said Mathew Cherian, chief executive, Helpage India.
The Delhi government’s efforts are grossly inadequate.
The two shelter homes — one being run by the government and the other one by an NGO — are not being able to cater to the increasing demand.
The government now planns to increase the number of homes to at least 10. However, the condition of these shelters is also a cause of worry.
The government runs recreation centres, which provides space for them to spend time together rather than being confined to their homes.
According to experts, one major problem senior citizens are facing is the threat of being driven out of their homes after they transfer their property to their children.
JR Gupta, chairperson, Confederation of Senior Citizens’ Association of Delhi, said they get at least 50 complaints every month on their helpline about abuse of senior citizens by their children.
Himanshu Rath of Agewell said the older generation right now had not learnt how to prepare for old age.
“They have no investments, no financial arrangements and they give their homes to their children and there is nothing left for them after that. This is the first generation of old people in Delhi who are living to the ages of above 70 and 80 years but they have no plan,” he said.