Five years after they were set up on an experimental basis in a single block panchayat in the district, the neighbourhood groups (NHGs) exclusively for the elderly have turned out to be a resounding success with their number soaring to 2,977 across 101 local bodies in the district.
Initially, the Kudumbashree formed 441 NHGs on a pilot basis in just five panchayats in the Mulanthuruthy block panchayat — Edakkattuvayal, Maneedu, Mulanthuruthy, Amballoor and Udayamperoor — under the Elderly Inclusion project of the National Rural Livelihood Mission in November 2015.
Unlike other Kudumbashree NHGs, which are the preserve of women alone, NHGs for the elderly were open to both men and women aged 60 and above. In due course, the number of beneficiaries under the project rose to 6,548 and they collectively set up 206 micro enterprises.
The main goal of the project was to provide a better social security net for vulnerable elders in the rural areas through health care, social protection, psycho-social care, livelihood support and other age-appropriate services in order to ensure an active, healthy, and dignified life.
“The success of the project encouraged the formation of such elderly NHGs across the district cutting across rural and urban divides. We were in the process of scaling up their activities and forming micro enterprises and joint liability groups for group farming when the pandemic set in and disrupted the activities,” said Ponni Kannan, district programme manager who is also in charge of the NHGs.
The NHGs attracted men and women from all walks of life, except a small relatively affluent section of people. Notwithstanding the fact that positions in these groups are reserved for women, men were happy to be part of the collective.
The groups set up at Mulanthuruthy have been regular with the repayment of funds allocated for various initiatives till the pandemic played havoc with their disciplined functioning and their regular weekly meetings.
They have also been very effective with the mobilisation of thrift funds and their utilisation for their own activities like pleasure trips and helping out the needy among their own members with interest-free loans.