Concept note on UDHAVI
Networking with the elderly
UDHAVI has been inspired by the number of senior citizens “orphaned” and left to their own devices without the support they richly deserve. UDHAVI is dedicated to the memory of our daughter Deepika whom we lost at a young age, a young woman who believed in looking after the elderly and their needs in an informal way.
We are still working on statistics, but the life span in India and throughout the world has been increased, and consequently it is important that the elderly lead a meaningful enriched life without the despair and ill health they suffer with longevity.
Most of the children, encouraged by their parents to better their prospects have migrated and some of them without ensuring that their parents are comfortable. Unfortunately we do not have the infrastructure that the West has for older people where the culture is “independence” at all times in their lives. We hang on foolishly to traditional values, hoping that we will be ultimately cared for by our children, are reluctant to move into Retired People’s Homes worrying over the likely problems in a new territory.
Having closely lived and loved old people most of my life, I thought there was nothing better than creating some kind of support for older people. Whilst there are so many schemes and programmes for the young adults and children, the old are kept on the back burner as persons who have outlived their usefulness. On the contrary, old people are rich in their experience in different fields, and their knowledge can be harnessed in a productive way as specialised consultants. This raises their self worth even if they work on a voluntary basis. One does not realise how enormous their contributions could be to society.
What I feel would help is a networking base to help the elderly. Our first meeting was on August 13 2013 in Chennai, and five volunteers offered their help. Each of them is contributing towards making a better life for the old and the infirm and for caregivers. I now call them mentors who form my core group.
We need to widen our base and each of these dedicated volunteers could get more people to join us thereby creating a ripple in the pond. What are the main functions of UDHAVI?
We locate old people who need help, to register with UDHAVI.
We screen them on eligibility to find out how much of help they really need.
We visit their homes to check on the safety aspect, if their homes are user friendly and the accessories they lack.
We split our volunteers area wise, and the seniors will connect to those people in their locality.
We build a comprehensive data base, which covers doctors, nursing help, nursing homes, hospitals, and visiting doctors, and shops which provide accessories for the elderly. This information has to be held by the core group to share whenever necessary.
Each member of our core group can form their own group of volunteers from that area.
Though we are starting out as a voluntary agency, we do need sponsors for some of our projects, and also for transport stationery etc, and for short trips we hope to make in a van.
We need to look at groups like Help Age, Dignity Foundation and Orion to quote a few and try to give our Senior Citizens what these organisations are not able to provide.
We talk to geriatric doctors who could attend our meetings time permitting and give us pointers on what to do and arrange for house visits by them.
Though it is not a priority at the moment, short trips or visits to certain places, movies or even arranging for shopping at malls would be appreciated.
Above all, total commitment is essential, and with the kind of networking I envisage the entire burden will not rest on a few people alone.
In a nutshell, UDHAVI works towards assisted living, not by giving professional nursing or housekeeping facilities, but offers companionship, assistance in small chores round the house, and offering learning skills to the elderly.