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Why the Old Seek Shelter Outside Home

Provedoria has been utilizing less than one-thirds of the money collected through lotteries for the aged and elderly. Provedoria’s mission is to “provide relief to the poor and needy people like shelter or care and protection to the old, helpless and destitute persons and meeting expenditure education of the children sheltered in its centres to bring them up by providing educational facilities.” In 2015-16 the Provedoria used only Rs 11 crore of the Rs 37 crore collected through lotteries. The story had been the same in the previous three years.
The number of the elderly requiring assistance outside the family has been growing in the state. Although there is no census of aged people, it is common knowledge that more and more elderly persons are coming to need outside help either because their children are not living in Goa or not living with them. But there is an increasing number of the elderly who face situations that are not good and hospitable for them in their own homes, that is even when they are living with their children. Although there is no specific survey of the Goa situation, a national survey by a non-government organization – which can very well apply to Goa – found that incidence of abuse of elders has been rising. Elderly women seemed to be more vulnerable with 52% women facing abuse as against 48% men. The abuser usually was the son, daughter, daughter-in-law, other close relation or a trusted person. The common types of abuse faced by them were verbal, showing disrespect and neglect. In most of the cases the elderly persons did not report the abuse to any individual or institution or government agency such as police.
Apart from the aged parents and grandparents who need help outside the family, there are bachelors and spinsters who are unable to take care of themselves in advanced age needing assistance. Is the Provedoria equipped to handle the growing scale of the problem? The answer is not very positive. The Provedoria runs just nine old age homes – four in North Goa at Panaji (Altinho), Chimbel, Mapusa and Candolim and five in South Goa at Majorda, Loutolim, Chinchinim, Margao and Cuncolim. A few years ago, a study by this newspaper found that 900 of the 1,200 elderly people living in old age homes in the state were housed in homes run by private old age homes or religious institutions. Only 300 of the 1200 elderly persons – or just about one-fourths of the total – were living in the nine old age homes managed by the Provedoria. The Provedoria’s nine old age homes had a capacity to accommodate more than 400 persons, but about 100 beds were not taken up.
One of the main reasons why Provedoria’s old age homes were not fully occupied was the complex and time-consuming procedures an elderly person had to follow before being considered eligible for admission into a home. The elderly person has to file an application with a poverty certificate from the village panchayat or income certificate from the mamlatdar or village panchayat countersigned by the block development officer. The applicant is also required to submit residential certificate and a health certificate issued by the health centre or government hospital or a registered medical practitioner certifying the state of health of the applicant, the nature of sickness and whether the applicant is mentally sound or is a handicap and confirmation that the applicant does not suffer from any contagious disease.
Another major reason why more and more elderly are suffering in isolation in their homes or going or being sent to paid care homes or homes run by religious trusts is poor services at Provedoria’s old age homes. The state of the repair of the homes is poor with leakages and dampness and so is sanitation. The quality, quantity and variety of food served to inmates are not very pleasing. The recreational facilities are virtually non-existent. The state government has not paid much attention to the not-so-hospitable conditions at Provedoria’s old age homes. The government must wake up to its duty of providing a pleasant home to the members of older generations who have contributed according to their ability and competence to the development of Goa but in their advanced age find themselves neglected and abused and left alone by the younger generations of their families. When sons and daughters turn them out, the State must step in to hold their hands and give them a warm welcome in Provedoria’s old age homes and make them feel pleasant and at home. At the same time, the government should devise specific schemes to increase the economic independence of the elderly and promote inter-generational bonding by sensitizing younger persons so that fewer parents and grandparents need a shelter outside their homes.

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