Calcutta Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology (CMIG), Regional Resource and Training Centre on Ageing, under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, India, explored the plight of senior citizens during the current pandemic. CMIG researched the status of senior citizens with respect to availability of food and essential supplies, community support, role of next generation, access to caregivers and domestic help, use of technology for communication, access to banking services, access to medical services for health conditions apart from Covid-19 infection (co-morbidities) and overall physical and psychological well being.
Seventy-year- old Shanti Ranjan Chakraborty who lost his wife recently lives with his only son and daughter- in -law. Though family has been supporting him throughout the pandemic he wished he had more comfortable access to banking facilities. He said “My area is heavily populated and it would be helpful to have independent queues and counters for senior citizens in the banks. The post offices are also closed and it is challenging for my age and health condition. Regarding food and medicines, although food is being cooked at home and is not a problem, home delivery of essential medicines are being delayed for weeks to months as suppliers and delivery personnel have heavy demand and need to deliver in bulk.”
Sixty-five-year-old old Dr. Bharti Neogi is a homeopathic practitioner and has never faced such crisis in her 35 year career. “Operations are being cancelled and many ill persons are waiting for pathological tests. They are sometimes approaching me and I am helping people as much as possible with my knowledge and even giving surplus food and commodities to fellow senior citizens in my neighbourhood.” But what is more worrying for her is that her only son lives in Toronto and his recent trip to his mother got cancelled. “My son not being able to travel because of travel ban makes me more anxious. To cope with this I have made several WhatsApp groups to stay closely connected with other senior citizens so that we all can share our experiences, exchange information and stay updated about recent developments in Covid-19 outbreak.”
Sixty-one-year-old Molly Ghosh and 68-year-old Sushmita Dey are all worried because their sons were living in foreign countries. The only way they can stay connected is through internet and technology. The pandemic and shift towards technology has taken them unprepared. Many are frustrated when they see their younger counterparts being able to order food online while they struggle. Structured models are needed to support senior citizens’ management of technology.
All senior citizens have to do their household chores by themselves because their domestic help are not being able to come. Some even fear if domestic aid came and anything went wrong, neighbours might report them. There are many elderly who need professional caregivers and physiotherapists to come and attend them in home. In instances where they are unable to come, families will have to provide necessary support to the closest accuracy. CMIG in collaboration with other organisations has conducted “basic life support courses” where family members are trained to help the elderly patient when professional help is missing. CMIG chief functionary and gerontologist Dr Indrani Chakravarty observes “Disintegration of joint families make senior citizens live in nuclear families with many of them being parents of NRI. In a pandemic like this community support,volunteers, youth from schools and colleges are playing a crucial role to help the elderly. In an era of digitisation, elderly are not at par with the next generation in terms of digital literacy so forming closed groups and sharing and complementing each other’s knowledge can be helpful.”