Active Elders

Oscar Wilde said it so well, “the tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young”. The definition of “elderly” is ever changing. In my 40s, I feel like I am 30 years old (though my body does not always agree) and I assume that in my 70s, I will feel 50.

But what if you are already in your late 60s and 70s, retired or semi-retired, with your children living abroad or away from you and perhaps with your spouse gone. Life can get tough. Many parents are uprooted by their children living in other cities or countries, in the hope that the proximity will allow them to take care of their parents better…without realizing that the uprooting comes with an unraveling of the social networks that allow the elderly to remain active, physically and mentally. The death of a spouse can also accelerate physical and mental decline and it is necessary to have friends and family to fall back upon, often on a daily basis.

Irrespective of how it is done, remaining active is necessary at any age, but more so for those in their 70s and 80s. It is very easy for our bodies and minds to start deteriorating in the absence of suitable stimuli.

In this context, the day care center at the Manav Seva Sangh in Sion is a boon. It has a capped membership of 70, with nominal yearly charges and all the members pool in a little extra for afternoon snacks. The center is open in the afternoons and early evenings and at least 60-70% of the members visit the center daily.

Within the center, they find camaraderie and bonhomie. They play carrom, read, watch TV, talk, gossip, discuss, celebrate birthdays monthly and get to know each other. Most of them are from the Dadar-Sion belt and they come walking or use public transport or are driven in by their chauffeurs or family members. They come from all socio-economic strata, some retired, some still working part-time, but these differences cease to matter within the center, simply because the whole idea is to bond outside of their homes and environs.

All of them find the time they spend at the MSS center, a “tonic” or a “stress-buster” and even if they come to the center for just 2-3 hours a day, this is the one activity the majority of the members look forward to every day.

In many countries, community centers that allow people, including the elderly, to interact with each other are not uncommon. Structured day-care centers for the elderly in Mumbai however are a rarity. While many elderly individuals do gather around in an unstructured manner on a daily basis, in parks and gardens, such as the Five Gardens, having a proper place to go to with a roof over one’s heads makes a difference. Many people also use clubs as places to interact in, but not everyone has access to clubs, and not all clubs are geared towards taking care of the interests of the elderly.

We make a big deal about our “Bhartiya Sanskriti”. While we all want to touch our elders’ feet, we conveniently forget that our elders also need their space as well, along with a way of interacting with friends and family. We are all social animals…this does not change just because we become old…in fact the need to connect probably becomes stronger with growing age.

Let’s hope for more MSS-like centers in the years to come. If you know of other similar places, please email me!

12 Comments

  • Janak Sheth wrote:

    MSS is organised but there are unorganised ones.

    During your jogs you must have seen several walking/laughter groups of elderly at Marine Drive. There are similar groups at Hanging Garden, PDP, 5 gardens etc. They often have Sunday breakfast or celebrate someone’s birthday.

    All these gatherings enable the elderly some timeout with their age group. It is a good place to socialise. Infact they are source of maintaining sanskruti as they come home with stories, gossip, ideas, match-making, what’s hot and not in society etc.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Thanks for sharing Janak

  • Hit the nail on the head.One needs close friends, specially when a spouse passes away.
    It keeps you from going into depression. We need more such centres.

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    I am 70+ and feel even lsss than 50 as suggested by you. Our hearts will always remain young even though our physical body may not walk hand in hand!! U R right, people of our age need to be active or else, depression sets in, lethergy begins to eat us, etc. For that very matter, I am working for Direct Sales company to fullfil my dream of making a place like the one mentioned by you where the elderly can get to gether and intreract with each other. I hope I can earn enough to build such a place!!!!!

  • There are 6 ‘Chai Masti’ centers all over Mumbai organized and run by Dignity Foundation and running very well for a number of years.

    http://www.dignityfoundation.com/community-care/chai-masti-centres.html

    Venkat

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    The second paragraph of your article says it all and MSS is geared to fill those needs. I am 70 and fortunate to have a full time profession (two in fact) and presently in California with our son, d-i-l and grandchildren. But, a day will come when all this will change and the mind and body needs preparation especially the former. And, to find a group that will fill that need is difficult especially if you have been a professional since most remember and talk about their past which is boring. That is the true challenge of old age!

  • absolutely wonderful thought n service!!

  • K.B.Raghavan wrote:

    Every one of us after they become a Senior Citizen needs to be active both mentally & physically by doing whatever possible.
    We should nor assume that retirement from wotk signifies retirement from Life.
    There is a danger of slipping into depression if you become a recluse after retirement.
    The MSS initiative is a good initiative & we must have more such Centres for S.C.in evey locality.

  • Its very good information. We are staying at CBD Belapur.We have our Association For Senior citizens having 400+ members. We work
    for welfare of Senior Citizens, organise health check up camps, excursion, regular meetings,help-line and consumer guidance activities. We celebrate national and other holidays. Ours is a very active Sr.Cit.Association

  • Pushpendra Shah wrote:

    Thank you for this article, Bhavin. I have forwarded this page -link to people on my mailing list – worth sharing with everyone !

  • Narayanan wrote:

    I live in sion, i wish there was some place where senior citizens could workout… nowadays gyms and other centers one feels like an outcast. Does anyone know of any yoga or other such centres in Matunga/ Sion area?

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    There is the centre at Manav Seva Sangh. Don’t of any others.

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