On October 1, the International Day of Older Persons, the Honourable Vice President of India Mr M Venkaiah Naidu dedicated the toll-free Elder Line helpline (number: 14567) to the nation. It was a proud moment for the Tata Trusts to see this initiative, which it had first piloted in 2016 with the Telangana government, being scaled up to help senior citizens across India live with comfort and dignity.
Elder Line is India’s first national helpline for citizens over the age of 60 years, and operates for 12 hours a day (timings: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM), seven days a week. The toll-free helpline provides senior citizens with free information, guidance and emotional support. The team behind it is also equipped to conduct field interventions wherever needed.
Elder Line started its pan-India operations in May 2021, in the midst of the pandemic’s second wave. However, its story began more than two years ago, in 2019.
Genesis of the helpline
In March 2019, the Tata Trusts launched Elder Spring, a response system for elderly citizens in Hyderabad, in partnership with the Government of Telangana. The response system was designed as a common platform that would work with all the relevant line departments of the government, in addition to non-profits and civil society, to resolve the concerns of the city’s senior citizens who were registered with the State’s Connect Centre.
The helpline was scaled up to the entire state of Telangana in April 2020, during the first COVID-19 lockdown phase. The phone number was also used as the COVID-19 response helpline for people aged over 60. From April 2019 to September 2020, nearly 12,000 elderly persons in Telangana received assistance through the helpline.
Given Elder Spring’s success and its ability to bridge a critical gap for senior citizens, India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment decided to scale up the pilot and set it up as a national helpline with the Tata Trusts and the NSE Foundation acting as technical and knowledge partners. Thus, Elder Spring was rebranded to Elder Line, with the same toll-free number (14567) expanding to other states too.
Elder Line has two key components. The first is the connect centre, where staff members address callers’ queries with empathy and try to solve their problems. The second component is a field support team that handles on-ground interventions required by senior citizens. The services offered to senior citizens fall under four broad categories:
1. Information about doctors, hospitals, old-age homes, activity centres, etc.,
2. Guidance on legal, pension, or Maintenance Act-related queries,
3. Support for anxiety, relationship management problems, emotional issues, etc.,
4. Intervention of both direct (e.g., elder abuse, and rescues of homeless or abandoned elders) and indirect (e.g., ecosystem-building) nature.
At the time of publishing this article, the pan-India Elder Line number has received over 3.80 lakh calls from 19 states and union territories (UTs). Over 42,500 callers have been serviced directly over the same period. As on date, Elder Line is fully operational in 19 states/UTs, with a team of 750-plus professionals taking calls in local languages, English, or Hindi from connect centres established in the respective regions, and also delivering on-field services to the callers.
The launch of Elder Line and its subsequent dedication to the nation by the Vice President are all milestones in a journey of partnership and collaborative effort. Working in tandem, all the stakeholders involved in this initiative – the Tata Trusts, the Central Government and State governments with support from NSE Foundation – have pooled their collective vision and leadership to enable India’s senior citizens to lead self-reliant, healthy and empowered lives.