India has traditionally been a country where the elderly have been shown great respect and most families would support parents, as they aged, within the extended family. This is still the case in many families but as more and more young people leave the villages to seek work further afield the number of elderly people who stay in the villages and who have very little or no support is rising.
With a donation from The South Indian Rural Development Trust, which supports social development projects in the area, the Bishopston Kuppam Link was able to set up a day centre five mornings a week in a room within the Pachaikili Play Centre building.
The centre opened in 2010 with just ten elderly people from two villages and is run as an innovative integrated resource, from which both the elderly and the young will benefit. The ayah works for the elderly and the children, and provides snacks for the elderly each week day. The two groups really benefit from interaction, with the elders playing games with and reading to the children.
The ladies of the local Self Help Group manage the day to day running of the elderly centre. These ladies are very enthusiastic about the project.
The centre has a television, a CD and DVD player and several games including traditional local ones. A newspaper is provided daily and there are opportunities for the elderly to develop their own interests. The Rural Unit for Health and Social Affairs (RUHSA) provides regular medical checkups.
BKL Trustees visit regularly and have provided training for the teachers on the model of play-based learning, who continue to give a really good experience to the twenty children who come every day. The teachers and ayah all feel a great pride in the work they do, and rightly so. We are much indebted to them for this commitment.
Just before lunch, the children talk in small groups with the elders. This time to interact with the elders is on the timetable, and there are other times too when they mix, sometimes at lunch time and sometimes when the children are dancing to a CD or to music on the television, some of the elderly women will join in with them. One of the elderly men used to be an actor and has a very vivid style of story-telling. It is very obvious that both the elderly and the children benefit from this closeness.
Another innovation is the activity organiser who works with the elderly. She is called Rani, and plays traditional games, takes the elderly outside to walk in the coconut grove, and encourages them to be active for example by getting them to play Musical Chairs, just after the children had played this same game.
If you would like to learn more about this friendship link, plan a fund raiser event or make a donation to one of our projects, please click HERE