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Support system for the aged, lonely

india Updated: Aug 17, 2009 01:33 IST
Sweta Ramanujan
Sweta Ramanujan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The Mumbai police will soon upgrade its helpline for senior citizens, Elderline.

New software, Hamari Suraksha, will enable the police to store not just detailed information regarding senior citizens who register with the helpline but also details about all their service providers like domestic help, drivers and regular vendors who visit the senior citizen.

“It will take a about a week and a half for the new software to be installed and functional,” said Commissioner of Police D Sivanandhan. “It will help us have all the information regarding service providers of registered senior citizens at the click of a button.”

The software is being introduced keeping in mind the fact that senior citizens living alone in the city are usually targeted by people known to them and those who visit them regularly like domestic help, plumbers or drivers. The idea is to be able to easily access details about service providers of senior citizens in case an incident like robbery or murder occurs.

Sivanandhan had recently ordered a census of senior citizens living in the jurisdiction of every police station. However, the Elderline database has only 4,101 senior citizens, which is not even 10 per cent of the total number of senior citizens living in the city.

The police claim they are facing practical difficulties in getting senior citizens to register with the helpline. “Many of them do not like our men visiting their homes. They do not like being disturbed,” said an officer requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Even when it comes to registering their domestic help with the local police, senior citizens are reluctant, police say. “We have had many senior citizens complaining that after we took details of their servants the servants did not turn up for work for fear of being victimised in case there is a robbery or something,” another officer said.

The police are planning zone wise registration drives through interactive sessions with senior citizens to build confidence. The police are also facing problems due to the lack of volunteers who could visit senior citizens in their locality.

Data available with the Elderline shows that maximum calls from senior citizens are for assistance with domestic chores like paying bills or going to the bank or to simply have someone to talk to.

“Anytime I feel depressed and lonely I call the Elderline,” said 71-year-old Ghatkopar resident Snehalata Shah, a regular caller who lives alone.

“The policemen and women here talk to us and listen to our problems patiently. The local police also visit us regularly.”

Ashwin Desai, who is in his sixties, calls Elderline almost every day. “I have been bedridden for 40 years due to paralysis,” said Desai. “Nobody has time to listen to us. But calling Elderline really helps.”

The police personnel posted at Elderline not just double as counsellors but also end up coordinating with local police stations to get a particular caller’s job done from paying their bills to satisfying their whims.

“We have a regular caller from Bandra who is bedridden and alone. So when she wants tea and her regular chaiwallah does not turn up on time, she calls us and we call the chaiwallah,” said Snehal Jadhav, a constable posted at Elderline. “She once called at 2.30 am saying she wanted to eat Chinese food and our constable on duty arranged it for her.”

The police say more genuine volunteers will make carrying out such tasks easier.