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Befriending elders – They still have a lot to say!


The room was half lit, the familiar deafening sound doing its chore, the little plate laying all lonesome on that wooden table and those weary eyes trying hard to visualize all the political events right from sunrise till the moon gazed.

This is the very predictable life of an elderly couple, or if age has been ruthless enough to snatch away the right hand, then it all comes to just a lonesome single soul struggling with his or her physical and mental solitude. The need to be heard, the desire to articulate – isn’t it just so innately human? Obviously age cannot mute thoughts.

Maybe some rounds of coffee with their old friends can be an outlet. Those moments are tinted with joy, happiness and surely increase their sense of confidence and self esteem. The joy of being heard, the happiness of expressing, the feeling of communicating and to be in sync with the world around can sprinkle freshness in their life. The social structure in India still attaches a lot of weight to family values. Family is the bedrock of this structure but eventually due to various work commitments, obligations and changed lifestyle, nuclear family system has evolved and offsprings do not have the privilege to stay with their parents.

The western world surely does not boast of a prosperous family culture but there are volunteers who help these elderly ones to overcome their gloom, which is certainly not a bad concept. There have been similar initiatives in India also and it would be a great drive to encourage counsellors and befrienders here too.

A volunteer can start with a session every week mainly engaging in activities of interest, like reading a book. Last time I visited my Dad, he came up with lots of updated news about technology and gadgets. I told him next time he would be having “Our Final Invention” by James Barrat, but wouldn’t it be exhilarating if someone could read and have a few words discussed about the subject? A small debate, some reviews and a lot of time together.

Regarding my other set of parents, my father in law has a lot of ideas when it comes to politics and the social realm. He had even scribbled down a few of his thoughts and desired that being a writer, I could bring it on social platform. I thought of this book “The Republic” by Plato but surely it’s not all about reading but streaming words, paying heed to his insight and taking the conversation to another level where there could be a smile in his eyes that comes from the feeling of being heard.

It’s also a great idea to initiate older people who stay all by themselves to learn new skills according to their knack. It could be a lunch party teaching culinary skills or may be the tact of trimming the little bush in the backyard or the art of dismantling an old transistor or mobile and restoring it.
Learning computers and indulging in social media platforms is another gateway. The volunteer could hold their fingers to teach the basic skills of typing, writing an email or opening an account and uploading images. This could prove to be a channel to phrase out an expression smouldering inside the elders.

One more idea for the physically able could be a day out around the city hopping around the ‘Book fair’ or the local ‘Electronics Bazaar’ which can do wonders!

I have seen many of these organisations who are taking initiatives of encouraging volunteers and counsellors to come up with this great cause. So let not our loved ones sip that cup of tea alone, gazing across the empty walls. Let not their ideas and expressions be stacked underneath but let there be a ear to listen, a hand to hold, let those great ideas not be drenched and swallowed up. Let the expression flow, let the voice be heard, let the smile be locked and let the joys be sealed, because their smile means a lot.

(I have been a volunteer and a befriender to an old lady and an Autistic girl, the gleam in their eyes when they used to hear my “hi” round the door cannot be expressed through words)

Ronita-Maitra Bhandari is a freelance creative writer who writes for various sites and blogs. She has also done a certified course in “Positive Parenting” from U.K. She is a mom to a 7-year-old and loves nurturing her greatest resource, her daughter. Apart from writing she is a nature lover and gets energised wandering around green patches. She believes family is a treasure chest and children are those precious jewels in the chest who sparkle to illuminate lives. What else would one desire to live a rich life?