Elderly could be homeless in twilight years as donations dry up

Living out their twilight years in old age homes, thousands of elderly persons across the country could lose the roof over their heads with funds for their donation-dependent refuges drying up in last few months.
File Photo
File Photo

North Delhi

As businesses collapse and incomes shrink in the extended lockdown and post lockdown phase, many old age homes have been forced to trim their budgets for essentials such as rations and medicines and some fear they could be looking at closure if the financial crisis continues. “Old age homes, especially the smaller and mid-sized ones, have traditionally depended on donations from local philanthropic individuals and business communities. With the lockdown and economic recession, the same has totally dried up,” HelpAge India CEO Mathew Cherian said.
Many institutions might be forced to shut shop due to the “drastic fall in their overall incomes”, he added.
According to HelpAge India, a non-profit organisation working for the disadvantaged elderly, there are nearly 1,500 old age homes in the country, housing nearly 70,000 people.  Other than the luxurious enclaves for the affluent, most senior care homes depend on donations, in varying degrees, to keep things running smoothly. The stakes are high for the residents, some of them taking on jobs such as cleaning, washing, cooking and making beds without assistance as their homes are forced to dispense with daily help.
Compelled by circumstance, they came in for various reasons — dysfunctional families, financial constraints or the need for companionship in the last years of their lives. The fear that the life they have finally settled into might be taken away imperils their sense of physical and emotional security. Shashi Malhotra, 73, is one of those who said he doesn’t know where he will go if his home closes down. The former inspector with the sales tax department separated from his wife in 2008 and hasn’t seen his sons in 12 years. With the impending challenges of old age and no family to turn to, he registered himself in an old age home run by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). It has been a decade since he moved to the home in south Delhi’s Govindpuri locality. “This is better than home. I feel happy and secure,” he said. “That this could be taken away from him is a thought almost too much to bear,” Malhotra said. The DMRC home, which houses Malhotra and 20 others over the age of 55 free of cost, has undergone a budgetary cut of almost 30 per cent. “After the funding started decreasing, we have been facing difficulties in arranging rations, toiletries and medical supplies for the residents. Sometimes, we do get help from NGOs like HelpAge India, but we mostly have to just manage,” said Rohit Kumar, supervisor at the home.
Shantiniketan, an old age home in south Delhi’s Chhatarpur locality that provides shelter to 38 ‘homeless’ and poor residents above the age of 60, isn’t as lucky. With a dip in funding by 50 per cent, from both corporates as well as philanthropic individuals, the home had to let go of all four of its housekeeping staff. A June 2020 survey by the not-for-profit NGO working for welfare and empowerment of older persons revealed that approximately 55 per cent elderly respondents (within and outside of old age homes) felt the “lockdown situation” is affecting their health conditions adversely.

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