The facility of day care centres and creches to take care of babies and infants of working parents is a common and popular phenomenon in the urban areas and even in some progressive villages in India. But the concept of a day care centre for the elderly and dependent parents of working children is yet to catch on in India. Realising the urgent need for such a facility, Shri Sathya Moorthy, retired Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General of India, has started a 'Day Care Centre' to cater to elderly people in the city of Chennai.
In an exclusive interview with K. Srinivasan, Editor, Digital PreSense, Shri Sathya Moorthy talked about the challenges faced by elderly people in the society today, and what motivated him to start such a unique initiative. Excerpts from the interview:
What, in your opinion, are the challenges faced by senior citizens today, especially in the urban centres, both in India and abroad?
With the breakdown of the joint family system in the society, many elders experience social isolation both within the family as well as with the outside world. Senior citizens are generally not counted as valuable contributors to the society and are often ignored because of their infirmities and lack of technological awareness. They are even considered as unproductive and a burden on the economy. The elders are often deprived of real-time conversations and communication with their children, who see their parents' ideologies, views and interests as outdated and incompatible with their own. With the increasing demands of a developing economy, the needs of senior citizens are relegated to a non-priority. In India, senior citizens do not enjoy any state-supported financial security such as a social pension or health insurance. These are better addressed and taken care of, in developed economies across the world. Even then, it is felt that the need of the hour for the elders is more of psychological support than financial or physical support.
What prompted you to start the Day Care Centre (DCC) for aged people in Chennai? Are such centres available elsewhere in our country?
My mother who is 93 years of age, is my main source of inspiration. I take care of her psychological needs, pastime, social visits and shopping.
My mother misses the joint family environment, that she used to enjoy in her younger days. Even though I cannot bring back that familial environment, I try to recreate it with proxies. I take her to visit her relatives where she could relive her memories, and also to other places for a change of ambiance to refresh her.
While old age homes are many, day care centres are an emerging phenomenon. Day care centres address the specific need of taking care of the elders during the day when their supporting children are unable to take care because of work or other compulsions.
These centres provide miscellaneous services during the day as required. These services are available at reasonable costs and can be availed without having to pay exorbitant fees or be permanent residents of the care centre.
These centres also provide wholesome social time for the elderly parents as they get to spend time with people of their age group during the day, while being able to return to their homes and families at the end of the day. This experience is similar to that of playschool children, who go to their creches on a daily basis.
What are the facilities you provide to the aged people in DCC?
The elders can read, play, listen to music and watch the television. We have provided a selection of topics for their preference, in the application form at the time of enrolment itself so that we can arrange for discussions and talks on these subjects. We also arrange visits to local places of worship and places of tourist interest, depending on their preferences, and their physical and financial abilities.
We have a 1800-square-foot, fully air-conditioned place on the ground floor. Our objective is to encourage discussions and conversations among the elders through social interactions and group activities. The members can also cook to their own tastes if they so wish in the kitchenette or order food at the day care centre, if they so desire.
How much do you charge them for these facilities?
The charges are on an actual cost basis. We charge Rs 200 per day / Rs 1000 a week / Rs 2500 a month.
What are your future plans?
I plan to replicate these centres so that more seniors can be served. This centre would not only keep the elderly parents in good spirits but will also comfort the supporting children with the reassurance that their parents are well protected and taken care of, while they are away. Their parents can spend their time with the other members as friends to talk, advise and support, creating a healthy social and personal attitude.
Day Care Centre is an important step towards minimising social isolation among elders, and creating happy elders and a positive environment in their family and home.
The centre is rightly christened SHEL....Smart & Happy Elders' Lounge, so that they remain smart and happy in their lives and in their families.
Shri Sathya Moothy can be reached at 044 2813 3663 / 9994449700 / 9444116490 Email id : SHEL83@GMAIL.COM