July 2019

A centre that spreads rays of joy

The quality of life of Lalita and many other senior citizens has improved thanks to the empathetic elder care ecosystem set up by the Tata Trusts

Lalita Pal (name changed to protect privacy) of Bhubaneswar, Odisha, sleeps peacefully at night and is happy and stress-free. The 55-year-old’s visits to the Anand Centre in Bhubaneswar has brought about a significant transformation in her. The Anand Centre is a Tata Trusts, Government of Odisha and HelpAge India supported multi-activity centre for senior citizens in Bhubaneswar.

As per Census 2011, India had about 10.4 crore senior citizens or persons above the age of 60, constituting almost 8.6 percent of the total population of the country. The Economic Survey 2018-19 projects this proportion of senior citizens to become about 16 percent by 2041. While as a percentage this may still seem to be a lower proportion compared to developed countries, in terms of the absolute numbers, this will be a daunting figure, comparable to the total population of several larger countries. For example, the projected1 senior citizen population of about 32 crore by 2050 is equal to the total population of USA today. In addition to the overall increase in the number of elderly, the number of persons above 80 years is also increasing. As per census 2011, there were about 1.1 crore persons above 80 years, and this is projected2 to be around 4 crore by 2050, being the fastest growing population group.

The elderly are a largely ignored population by governments and other organisations, and even by their own children. The Tata Trusts aim to play a transformational role in the geriatric sector by focusing on critical gap areas and creating an empathetic ecosystem. The goal is to improve the quality of life of elderly people through caregiving, decreasing their dependency, and generating social and economic opportunities.

Lalita is among the many who have benefitted from the Trusts’s elder care initiatives. She has four daughters — one married, two studying and a fourth who has completed her studies. Their economic needs are met by a makeshift shop that sells products from China and electronic items. “My daughter has a difficult marriage and we are struggling to find a permanent space for our shop. Due to this, I was not able to sleep at night, did not enjoy my food and got irritated with everyone at home,” says Lalita. A leg and shoulder injury further complicated matters. She was not able to attend to her household chores. That’s when Lalita came to know about the Anand centre in Bhubaneswar from a friend. She found the physiotherapy sessions there cheaper than the ones she attended, and promptly shifted her sessions to the centre.

The Anand Centre is part of the Trusts’ elder programmes that operate under the umbrella of 'Elder Spring’ in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Odisha. They are customised to fit ageing populations in urban and rural areas. The Elder Spring Urban Model focuses on remaking urban centres into age-friendly cities that optimises opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the happy and healthy ageing of the elderly. While the rural model of the initiative focuses on addressing the basic health needs of the elderly in rural areas through the National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly, a central government initiative.

Lalita paid the membership fee and became a regular member at the Anand Centre. She enjoyed the Bhagavad Gita, yoga, aerobics and physiotherapy sessions, and regular outings, and, most importantly, interactions with a like-minded community of her own age. She was happy to talk and share her thoughts without inhibitions, which relieved her of stress. “What attracts me is that we have a small group and individual attention is paid to your needs. There is no discrimination on the basis of economic status. All members are treated equally and we can relate very well with each other,” says Lalita. “Psychologically, I am getting stronger. My family members are happy to see me happy.”

Lalita has been raving about the centre to friends and acquaintances and has also distributed leaflets to popularise it. It has turned her life around. She hopes that many more senior citizens have opportunities to avail of its services and find self-worth and meaning in life.

1Source: World Population Prospects, 2019 published by UN. As per this report, the estimated numbers (medium variant) of persons above 60 years in 2020 is about 14 crores, in 2030 about 19 crores, in 2040 about 25 crores and in 2050 about 32 crores.
The Economic Survey 2019 projects that persons above 60 years in 2021 will be 13 crores, in 2031 about 18 crores, in 2041 about 24 crores.
2World Population Prospects, 2019.