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Sanctuary for senior citizens

Friday June 15 - June 21, 2001 CITY Reporter Of News, Information & Features, Bangalore

While the younger generation is out there in the big bad world coping with escalating competition and workload, senior citizens are left behind at home.

Feeling lonely and insecure. "It's not that my brother's family doesn't care for me, it's just that they are busy with their lives and don't have time to look after me," says 83-year old Grace Thomas, who doesn't have any children.

Asha Jeevan home for the Aged Trust, an NGO, was set up a year ago to address this problem, which has its roots in today's fast paced lifestyle.

"Asha Jeevan aims to provide a home where senior citizens will feel secure, wanted and looked after. It has a homely atmosphere; so they won't miss their family," says promoter and trustee Sujatha R Bhat.

Asha Jeevan has rented three houses on Bannerghatta Road to accommodate 22 people. The trust has trained attendants to look after the inmates. It also provides nutritious food, with menu planned under guidance of a dietician.

Asha Jeevan does not restricts entry of members unlike many other old age homes, which only take in "able bodied and mentally sound" senior citizens.

Some of the inmates at Asha Jeevan have a history of mental disorders. Visiting psychiatrists from shanty nursing Home and NIMHANS treat these patients. A physician visits the home every 10 days for a general check up.

Even on a short visit to the homes, lots of stories unfold before you.

58-year old Godavari is unmarried and has a history of epilepsy. Her brother and sister are old too and cannot take care of her. She has been at Asha Jeevan for a year now. "I like the atmosphere here. Earlier I felt sad because I'd left my family. But now I've grown used to it. My brother's children visit me sometimes," she says with a content smile.

Grace Thomas too is at peace with herself. "Food is tasty and girls take good care of me," she says.

What does she do in her free time? "I pray. At other times, I think about the past… about happier days," she says.

But not everyone has come here of their own volition. 58-year old Rekhamma is a schizophrenic whose husband has deserted her. "She is obsessed with babies and thinks she is here for delivery," says Bhat. According to her, most family members come often to visit the inmates.

Bhat said that the trust was looking for a site to build a bigger house to accommodate more senior citizens. But good intentions are not enough. It needs to be backed by financial support.

The trust has not received any governmental help though we have approached various ministers for aid. We want to initiate lots of changes and extend our activities but we will need funds for that," Bhat says.

People interested in contributing to the trust financially or otherwise can contact Asha Jeevan, Home for the Aged Trust, 449, 9th Main, Sunderam Shetty Nagar, Bilekahalli, Begur Hobli, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore 76. Ph: 6638154/6595620.