For 63-year-old Pushpavally from Maneedu panchayat, her retired life assumed a new meaning after joining a neighbourhood group (NHG) for the elderly three years ago.
Among the youngest in a group of 16, she was made the president, and since then she has been busy holding monthly meetings and taking care of three different micro-enterprises of her NHG till the pandemic put brakes on them.
“Corona has hit the market for our products a bit, but that is manageable, since we have local demand. What we miss the most are interactions during our meetings held twice a month. The meetings were always a lot of fun with singing and dancing and often overshot the supposedly two-hour duration,” said Ms. Pushpavally.
The meetings have remained suspended since February, and M.V. Yakub, a 66-year-old retired postman, looks back at them with so much longing. “At a time when neighbourly relations were not once they used to be, the meetings were occasions for people of our age to sit and reminisce about our past and share joyful moments by celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries,” he said.
It was on realising the significance of meetings for the elderly that the Kudumbashree started weekly Google meets around a fortnight ago, and they were received with great enthusiasm.
“We are accommodating as many members as possible in the meetings, though those without smartphones cannot join. We are also urging participants to educate fellow members on how to join the meets considering that they may be able to better communicate among themselves,” said Ponni Kannan, Kudumbashree district programme manager.
Google meets are among a slew of services organised by the Kudumbashree for the elderly in the wake of the pandemic.
Under the Grand Care project, being implemented in association with the Department of Women and Child Development, the Kudumbashree has been reaching out to the elderly to enquire after their well-being and offer psychological support. A mobile application-driven project was facilitated by local body-specific data on the elderly.
“We have deployed at least one resource person for a panchayat who, among other things, create awareness about the need for proper quarantine and reverse quarantine and ensure delivery of essentials, especially medicines. In individual cases beyond the capabilities of resource persons, our community counsellors take over,” said Arathy Aravind, district programme manager, Startup Village Entrepreneurship Programme.
So effective and frequent has been the communication that many elderly now personally contact the resource persons when faced with problems.