“Old people are pressure cookers, ready to burst any moment if pressure is not handled at the right time.” – Himanshu Rath, Founder, Agewell Foundation.
Himanshu has a new definition for retirement. “I’m done with earning money for livelihood now. I have saved enough and sometimes I do freelancing. I want to focus on something which I’m happy doing. Helpline is more than just a call or volunteers for me,” he says.
In his mid-forties, Himanshu has never lost the path to reach his target and goal. Although there were many obstacles like his family having second thoughts about an NGO, how he would earn if it became necessary, he never gave up and kept striving to reach his goal. “They were trivial,” he says.
A survey conducted by Agewell Foundation showed that 541 out of 2,743 elderly respondents suffered abuse. The second most common form of abuse after misbehavior is restricted social life.
“There was an incident in Delhi where anold lady living with her son, daughter-in-law and one year old grandson was clearly a victim of abuse. The daughter-in-law would lock her in the balcony, withhold food, and not allowher in the house or allow her to play with her grandchild . There was a day when she developed a fever and was not allowed to come into the house, despite the 2-3 degree temperature of the Delhi winter She was not even allowed to use the wash room. This dld lady even had to attend to nature’s calls in the same place that she had to eat. Her neighbor called our Foundation to inform us of this incident. Our volunteers went and rescued her, lodged a complaint with the police and enrolled her in a nearby shelter.”
I was moved to tears when Himanshu mentioned that it was just one case. He handles more than 100 mails everyday about similar or worse cases.
Madan Lal, an 85-year-old has been suffering from several old age related problems. Due to his inability to move he was also losing all social contact. Even his family has relegated him to a corner. For nearly three years, an aged and frail Madan Lal was confined to his room in South Delhi. “He was too weak to walk. Few steps, he would stumble and fall” recalls his grandson Tipu. Tipu a student in class twelve student and parttime employee in a hotel heard about Agewell Foundation. His interaction with the foundation proved to be a life changing event for Madan Lal. “Teen saal pehle, mere dada ko ek wheel chair diya gaya tha. Uss samay, mere dada ne mujhe unko mithai ki dukaan leke jaane ke liye bola. Woh bahut khush the us samay.” (Three years ago, when the Foundation gave my grandfather a wheel chair, He was so happy that he first asked me to take him to a sweet shop and he wanted to ride and come back on his own.)
Through this intervention conducted by Agewell Foundation, Madan Lal is now enjoying the remaining years of his life. The organization has also been providing him with 60 diapers every month.
“In old age, almost everyone has to deal with healthcare related issues. Poverty, marginalization, and isolation contribute to devastating living conditions. The situation is worse when elderly are seen as burdens,” says Himanshu. Agewell Foundation has been conducting free health care camps in the slums of Delhi-NCR since 2012 and has been providing them with much required help and relief materials. Over 3,000 adult diapers, 500 walkers, 100 wheel chairs are distributed every month.
When asked why a helpline and why not an old age home he explained, ”Old age homes give shelter, food, medication and other needs. But I realized what these old people needed the most was a good listener. Where they can share, get a friend, unburden. Most of them seemed relaxed when they talkedvabout what was bothering them.”
“When the callers speak to our volunteers or when we reciprocate, we always get a thank you letter or a thank you call back. That is how I track my impact. My Foundation is a silent support,” laughs and adds Himanshu.
Helping and assisting the elderly, Agewell Foundation has definitely emerged as a stalwart in these lost, battered, and lonely people’s journey.