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The hand that rocks the cradle.

More and more IT parks are mushrooming in the city, more and more jobs have been created, salaries are getting thicker and people are choosing to go abroad for their holidays but 9 crore of our population are lonely, abused, uncared for, unattended, unloved, disrespected and unsure of their future. This is the grey world of the ‘grey’- India’s elderly population.

The hand that rocks the cradle now breathes her last in an old age home. The person who gave flight to your dreams isn’t a part of when you are living your dream - your youth and your success.

I care, so does Help Age India, India’s number one NGO with presence in 22 States in the country and is one of the founding members of HelpAge International, a high profile body having 51 member countries representing the cause of the elderly at the United Nations. It has received a special testimonial from the United Nations for ‘Dedicated service in support of the United Nations Programme on Ageing.”

If an organization like HelpAge India has grown to such a stature, this should not be a matter of pride for us because it’s not just the growth of an organization we see here but its our own core values which have fallen short reflecting the universal trend of the youth ‘not caring’ anymore. If an organization has tapped this area it means we didn’t do our part to be the pillars of strength to our ageing parents.

HelpAge India, when other NGOs have thought of just running old age homes, has gone ten steps ahead and thought of extending services to the elderly, the most remarkable being the Mobile Medicare Unit, a tempo traveller which caries medical help for the elderly from ‘below poverty line’ (BPL) families. 12 slums distributed across the length and breadth of the city of Bangalore is reached by this Mobile Medicare Unit where the elderly are kept aware of the timings and the days. In total 53 Mobile Medicare Units in 22 states reach the elderly everyday, the agenda is simple, and one, that is, to reach for those frail and weak hands that reach out for medical help.

A doctor with 40 years of experience, a Senior Executive (MMU), a pharmacist and a driver constitute this medical unit. The elderly are given registration cards which record their medical history along with an identity card. The doctor examines them, prescribes them medicines or furthers them for more advanced tests/treatment/check-ups in network hospitals if required. Medicines that are prescribed are then distributed by the pharmacist; he seems to have it all!! From antipyretic, analgesics, antihistamines, antibiotic, medicines for diabetes, hypertension, cardiac drugs, anti asthmatic drugs, vitamins and others are available here. These drugs are centrally procured by HelpAge India and their consumption is recorded daily by the pharmacist to ensure no medicines are misused.

The patients can take their HelpAge India registration card/identity card to the network hospitals and avail free treatments, X-ray, Scan, Ultrasound and other tests and even surgery except for the post surgery medicines which the patient has to bear on his/her own. For the very poor this comes as a valuable relief from absolute no medical support before such interventions. A single Mobile Medicare Unit impacts 600 patients and 2000 treatments a month in Bangalore. Besides these General Health Camps are also organized twice a month where this unit ventures into a different area altogether.

Ask Gayatree, the Senior Executive who is part of the team, if in the 14 years with HelpAge India it has ever occurred to her to look for another job, and she smiles and says ‘Never’! She tells me later that she is happy doing what she does and feels she has been rained with blessings since the day she joined. I guess it doesn’t take that much to make a difference but for a heart that feels and a mind that wants to.

The plight of the elderly is similar across the strata but the BPL elders’ situation is worse because their families are genuinely not able to support them.

HelpAge India has thought of everything possible in terms of care of the elderly. It runs Helplines for the lonely, Old Age Homes, Physiotherapy Centres besides being the leading advocate for older people’s rights. After 15 years of lobbying by HelpAge India, the National Policy on Older Persons was announced by the Government of India in 1998. An Action Plan for implementation of the Policy was also drafted and submitted to the government by HelpAge India. It runs 1253 Helplines across the country in cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Hyderabad, Shimla, Dehradun, Kolkatta, Lucknow and others to address problems of elders such as isolation, neglect, facilitate emergency responses, provide information on access to various elderly schemes and provides linkages with the government, police and referral rescue and relief services along with offering counselling services to help elderly in distress.
It’s not an ordinary day for me today. It’s been one of the most enriching days of my life, volunteering/documenting/interacting with HelpAge India and those it impacts everyday, perhaps because I love my mom and my dad. There are thousands out there who are abused by their sons because of their dependency on them, thousands who have no one to talk to due to preoccupation of the young in their work and personal lives, thousands who have been forcibly made to surrender their property against their will or before time and then there are those who have been made to live in old age homes while they still had their children.

I pray that my parents never have to need anyone but me the day they need help.

(Excerps from my article on a leading English daily)

~The writer is a humanitarian having worked with the United Nations Organization and is a columnist/writer/aspiring novelist with PENGUINS.
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