Mini Surve Ranjit, a 76-year-old ‘young’ woman is living life on her terms. Hailing from Mumbai, Mini and her husband moved to Goa a few years ago to spend their retirement life whilst their children are settled overseas.
Soon a tragedy struck and Ranjit was left heartbroken as she lost her husband. But she gathered courage to overcome the reality while remembering what her beloved spouse often told her, “We have to stay for ourselves.”
Unlike many, she is not dependent on her children to take care of her in this old age. In a small interaction with Herald, Ranjit gave an insight about how her life is still busy. “I start my day with morning exercises and spending sometime at the gym. I am a member of various groups related to women and senior citizens that organize various programmes for them. I don’t spend lonely moment at all,” said an enthusiastic elderly-yet-young Ranjit.
Ranjit has spent around 12 years in US before returning to India for good. She has her children settled overseas with their respective families. While they rarely meet, the family members are in touch over the phone. She nevertheless is contented with her life.
“We all have to be independent and this is what my husband taught me. We have to stay for ourselves and I agree that it is a good decision. We gave the best education to our children and they are doing well in their lives,” she ended as she returned back to her daily schedule.
Thousands of Goans, among several Indians, emigrate for higher studies or high-paid salaries or just for a better lifestyle. As these individuals cross several thousand miles away for their better future, they leave behind their elderly parents. Goa is not an exception where several parents are either living alone or are at the helm of their neighbours or organisations working towards assisting senior citizens.
Fortunately, there is rarely any case of abuse on elderly parents at least as per Sevarat Healthcare & Nursing Pvt Ltd that currently takes care of 300-odd aged persons as their own family member.
“Goa has the second highest number of elderly living independently in the country. But our infrastructure, systems and civic sense doesn’t provide for as much ease of living. It is very difficult to find house helps, medical workers, and handymen here. It is very difficult for the elderly to handle these simple tasks on their own,” Sevarat founder Rohini Gonsalves said as she shared her experience dealing with the situation pan-Goa.
She stated that families, her association serves are very responsible towards their elderly family members. “We may have had just one such case of abuse of the patient by the spouse who was also aged. So we made sure we counseled the spouse and resolved it,” she added.
A 74-year-old woman, living with her daughter in the outskirts of Panjim, has no words to express her gratitude to Sevarath. After an operation and a paralytic attack, Sevarath ensured the woman and her family are under no stress.
Radha Prabhu and her daughter are living in a rented apartment around 20 kms from their permanent house owing to her leg operation around three years ago. Sevarath continues to offer the elderly woman all the help required anytime during the day or night.
These are two different tales of elderly women but the prime question remains about many other senior citizens living independently. Goa Police, on December 24, 2014 launched a helping ‘1090’ for this section of people for their safety. However, very little is known about the functioning of the helpline while a few, with whom Herald interacted with, have said no beat policemen come at their doorstep to inquire of their well-being. Herald tried to speak to police higher-up but response is still awaited.
Silvestre Da Cunha, 70-year-old Panjim resident, has denied any assistance but also confirmed no police inquiries have come to him so far. “I heard about it (senior citizens helpline) but I have not registered and neither approached by the police. I don’t need the help. I believe my protection is my God but I also follow all the safety precautions,” he said.
Da Cunha has lived most of his life abroad after quitting his job at Public Works Department in 1977. He moved to Goa about a year ago after which the pandemic struck the globe, while his wife and children are in different countries.
Angela Noronha, also an independent elderly citizen, ensures her own safety. While she never skips yoga and outdoor walks, she also enjoys gardening. The 84-year-old too hasn’t been approached by the police offering any kind of help or calls/visits inquiring about her wellbeing.
The Fatorda incident has once again shifted the limelight on the safety of elderly citizens living in Goa.
Reacting to the unfortunate murder at Fatorda, Sevarath’s Gonsalves termed it as shocking and unfortunate. “This is a shocking and sad incident. Caution is the only solution. Verification of the tenants and employees is extremely important. Also keeping in touch with neighbours and in turn neighbours checking on their own elderly neighbours will go a long way in keeping people safe. Finally charity begins at home, it's always best to have elderly family members live with us or at least close to us to prevent such mishaps,” she said.