It is a well-known fact that the elderly population segment requires special attention and care. However, it is unfortunate to state that they are often overlooked as we move towards the nuclear family system and the children get occupied in the hustle-bustle of everyday life.
With the changing times and urban lifestyle, the elderly are becoming more vulnerable in addition to their degrading health and dependency at this age. A study by Agewell Foundation indicated that 1 in every 2 senior citizens is suffering from loneliness. Cases of disrespect, abuse and abandonment are much higher and increasing than what we could ever imagine in a country like ours – where we set an example for the world having a reliable family system.
However, there are still a whole lot of enthusiastic people who firmly believe in supporting the elderly and help them age gracefully. One such eminent organization from Tricity is Grey Shades, which is a youth-led Not for Profit organization working for the well-being of the senior citizens.
Spearheaded under the proficient guidance of social entrepreneur, Inderpreet Singh, Grey Shades focuses on a holistic well-being of the elderly by ensuring that they are in a good physical, social and emotional realms of life. Since the last four years, their team has been providing a safe space to the elderly to express, explore, and experiment and have a fulfilling & meaningful experience in the post-retirement years of their life.
Leading Despite the Odds
Ever since the pandemic began, it ended up hitting the lives of elderly at large. There was not only a fear of the unknown and a constant threat to life but also a persistent danger to their already minimal social and emotional life. This is not even seen to be improved in the near future, leading towards a cognitive impairment of masses among senior citizens with a wide range of long-term consequences like dementia, depression and Alzheimer’s diseases.
“The elderly living alone had to go through tough times in meeting their essential needs, medicine, food and assistive caregiver at their place during the lockdown and curfew. In this scenario, social purpose organizations emerge to be a major savior complementing government efforts and being more approachable to the senior citizens and people with elderly parents in need.So, at Grey Shades, we helped hundreds of elderlies living alone in Tricity (Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula) with their essential needs and running errands in the absence of their family members. We started the counseling helpline having professional counselors seeing the necessity of having the emotional and mental help support in these challenging times,” shared Inderpreet.
“During the past 4 years of working with the elderly, I learned we need to provide dignity & quality of life, both with equal weightage. That requires a mind shift from only limiting to the doctrine of “Roti, Kapra & Makan” (Food, clothes and Shelter) to empathizing with the needs of an aging population. The government policy, the organizations and communities, working for the welfare of the senior citizens are doing the essential support work, which is significant but not sufficient. We require the approach of keeping the senior citizens’ needs at the center. For example, assistive care is not solving the problem of the elderly as the primary need as much as it offers the solution to the family at responsibility. The emergence of nursing homes and old age homes never happened, thinking of the elderly at the center. If that’s the case, the outlook of these institutions would have been very different from a place where the elderly are living to spend their days waiting for their death,” he further added.
Emphasizing on the Need to Age Gracefully
Abraham Maslow’s popularly known theory, “Hierarchy of Needs” gives vital insights to relook our work for senior citizens. The current efforts are only focused on the bottom of the pyramid providing physiological needs and ensuring their safety. Picking the case of a typical old age home, the senior citizens are assured of their basic survival needs and security, which is sufficient to keep someone safe and living. It is the same as the case for the elderly living with the family except for a few. The definition of providing care to the elderly is limited to providing them safety and physiological needs. At any age, we need a sense of connection and belonging. We need respect and a sense of recognition. We need the expression of our capabilities. And in the opposite, senior citizens spend their life post-retirement in the suffering of loneliness, boredom & helplessness. Which is on an average is 19 years in despair for senior citizens, where many live up to 90 & 100 years of age.
Aging is treated like poverty, which is considered as ‘their problem’ distinguishing between ‘haves’ & ‘have’s not’. Unlike poverty, we are all aging from the day we are born and it is impacting our lives with the increased magnitude over time starting aging grandparents, then our parents, and one day ourselves. The privilege has very little to do with it. However, it does affect negatively as people from middle & upper middle families are struggling with more emotional issues than in rural & lower economic sections.
“The elderly are vulnerable as they are continuously losing as they age. They lose their control, their way of life, their health, their peers/partner and list goes on. The approach should be broader in terms of focusing on empathizing with them and efforts to reduce their suffering, re-establishing & strengthening their connection within the family and community, helping them to become aware of their emotional health and space to practice, and providing them with the opportunities for expression of their abilities,” affirmed Inderpreet.
“We need to create more opportunities for them to live their aging years in a meaningful way. They should have the space to express their emotions & abilities. They should have a space to explore new learning and update their life with the changing times, and they should have the space to experiment without the fear of failure & judgment,” he concluded.
Grey Shades is on a mission to provide a happy and positive space for the elderly to express, explore and experiment and be the largest community of active agers in India by 2025.
Grey Shades organizes a 100-Day curriculum-based experiential learning program called ‘Grey Shades Fellowship’ for the Senior Citizens. This program promotes and provides a safe space for active aging to help them realize their potential. It is designed to help re-establish their confidence and self-esteem and live their silver years with enthusiasm and purpose.