Shunned by their families, old age homes last resort for elderly

ASAVARI SHARMA

Source: anirbanbanerjeespeaks.blogspot.com

When 70-year-old Edmund Pereira (name changed) breathed his last in Khanpur home in old Ahmedabad, no one came to know for three days. His death was discovered only when the suspicious neighbours pushed the panic button and recovered the body.

This is what prompted John D’Costa, president of the Catholic Association of Ahmedabad, to open an old age home in this part of the city inhabited by traditional Christian families.

“We didn’t want this to happen to other old people whose children were working away from them,” said D’Costa, whose father was Pereira’s friend. This was also Ahmedabad’s first Catholic old age home.

Sandeep Shah, managing trustee of Jivandhara Old Age Home in Narol, said, “There are four reasons why senior citizens start living in an old age home. First is when their children are settled abroad. Second is when the old are unmarried, widowed or childless. Third is when they only have a daughter. Lastly, when there are family problems; financial or emotional.”

According to V G Pandya, manager of Jeevan Sandhya Home in Naranpura, the initial months are tough but once they find compatible people, it becomes easier. “Sometimes, regretful children come back to take their parents. But the parents don’t always leave,” he said.

An inmate of Jeevan Sandhya, Ekanta Makani (65), had problems with her daughter-in-law. “I used to live with my son and daughter-in-law in Mumbai. But my daughter-in-law ordered me to leave the house. So my unmarried daughter working in Ahmedabad left me here. This has been my home for three years. Now I spend time doing minor kitchen chores and chatting with other close inmates,” she said. Makani is a native to Moti Monpari village of Junagadh.

Jigneshbhai Gordhanbhai, administrator at Shri Maganlal Trikamlal Trust Sanchalit Vrudhashram on Ashram Road, said, “Nowadays people live longer. There are four generations living under one roof. Earlier, it wasn’t a problem but now it is. So there is arrangement for the old.”

Most homes provide medical services, prayer hall, comfortable dining timings, libraries, gardens or an outside sitting area and in grave circumstances, even do the last rites.

Maniben Tribhovandas Matru Gruh in Chandranagar, Paldi, mostly houses elderly women coming from low-income or middle-income backgrounds. “Only widows or divorcees live here. Most were ill-treated by their daughters-in-law who never took proper care of them and verbally-physically abused them. Sometimes the ladies who get fed up voluntarily come here,” said the caretaker, who preferred anonymity.

An inmate of Matru Gruh, Manjula Ujjaniya (66) packed her bags and came to the old age home when she was allegedly hit by her son and daughter-in-law. It’s been only some weeks but she is happy.

Sharda Patel (76) came to Matru Gruh in October after her fourth daughter also got married. Since she didn’t want to live with anyone, her daughters put her here. Now she spends her time by cleaning, cutting vegetables and chatting with other inmates.

Three years after his retirement, Janardhan Thakker (72) left their Maninagar house and decided to enter such facility with his wife. The childless couple wanted to serve and are now enrolled in Maganlal Vrudhashram, this is their third home.

“I serve food and even go to the medical clinic with the ill. Sometimes my wife helps in the kitchen. We have many relatives who call us once-a-week. We also visit them frequently,” Thakker said.

Ketan Rao (66) an inmate of Jeevan Sandhya, left his home in Vadaj area two years ago and moved into the facility. “My wife went to live with the children who are settled in the US. I didn’t want to settle there. So I came here,” he said. Rao’s family knows where he lives now. “But all is well between us,” he added.

Original link: http://epaper.indianexpress.com/c/2126817

Published by The Indian Express Ahmedabad (Late City edition) on December 26, 2013.

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