Elderline, a helpline by the Mumbai police, was launched with the main objective of helping senior citizens ‘facing situations that involve physical violence or pose a risk to their lives’. But it has also helped them face the biggest challenge of old age — loneliness.
Policemen answering calls at the Helpline control room often develop a bond with the senior citizen and play company whenever they feel lonely.
An officer, who has been answering calls since the past many years, said after the first few calls, the policeman on duty gets familiarised with the callers. “Over a period of time, the police personnel get to know the family background and other details about the senior citizen/s, which helps them interact better,” he said.
“There are several occasions when the senior citizens call up because they just need someone to talk to. There have been occasions when we spoke to one person for over two hours,” said the officer, adding that on many occasions the seniors even visit the control room at Crawford Market to meet the friendly policeman he/she had been talking to.
Elderline normally keeps records of minute details of senior citizens such as the telephone number of their local grocery shop and the nearest hospital. “This comes handy in case of an emergency. There have been occasions when we have asked the shops to deliver grocery in case the senior citizen was sick or during any other emergency,” the officer said.
“In more ways than one, staff at the helpline develop an emotional bond with the elderly and the informal interactions become akin to that of a family member,” he added.