SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY
GREY IS GOOD: Himanshu Rath started Agewell Foundation 11 years ago
with the aim of making living worthwhile. Photo: V. Sudershan
Image URL : Photo of Himanshu Rath for those who want to see him by photo:
It is an interesting irony. Someone who has hung up his boots at 41 is
trying to net jobs for those crossing 60 and more.
But then, life has its quirks and Himanshu Rath is a successful
example of it. This diligent Delhiite, a copywriter by profession,
delivered to himself the dream he always dreamt at age 41 — to have
adequate bank balance to see through old age, a house to call his own
in Delhi plus a modest holiday home tucked away in the hills.
But not always life is a photo finish and within months Rath became
conscious of having all the time in the world and no work to do. And
that's when he thought of starting a helpline for older persons "to
help solve their problems." Things took root under the name of Agewell
Foundation in Delhi's Lajpat Nagar and today, 11 years later, doing
among other things, Rath is perhaps the only person you would come
across who runs an employment bureau open only for older persons from
across the country.
In his '50s now, with a crop of salt and pepper hair to mark his entry
into senior citizenry, Rath now emits the certainty of moving miles
away from his modest beginning in the field of addressing older
people's problems. One import issue, he underlines, is the difficulty
of finding employment for them. "Our Government is the biggest
employer which unfortunately doesn't allow you to work after 60. With
higher longevity now, 60 is no age to stop working, particularly when
you have to take care of your needs for the next 20-25 years. Many
have more children and by the time they are retired, one or two of
them are not yet settled in life, so there is constant need for money.
For the employment of such people, one is dependent on private
enterprises only. The jobs most end up doing are secretarial ones
though many are capable of picking better jobs." The corporate world
is adamantly against employing retired people, he states.
"Take for instance, companies with dealerships, like Phillips. It has
about 80,000 franchisees across India. If they insert a clause in the
agreement that they will have to employ a retired person in any
capacity at their showroom, 80,000 retired people will find job at one
go," he points out. Letters have been sent to corporate houses but
nothing has come of it so far. "It has to come from top management,"
Rath explains why employing older persons is a better choice for
companies, "You don't have to raise their salaries every year, you
don't have to deal with the arrogance of youth. Instead, old people
will be ever grateful for giving employment."
With the help of a diagram, Rath, an MBA, explains how in India, most
voters are older people, the leaders are old too and yet "we don't
have a policy for older persons." The National policy for older
persons "was a hogwash, it was to counter the global criticism of our
nuclear test." With the policy gone for a review now, he asks, "What
for, it was never implemented."
The root cause
At present, Rath has over one lakh persons registered for jobs and so
far, he has helped 30,000 people find employment. No money is charged
for the service. As of now, traders, shopkeepers and small enterprises
are willing to use the experience of retired people. To survive the
odds, Rath says, "We have encouraged retired teachers to take up
tuitions in their colonies, the money is good." Those with financial
background are encouraged to start bookkeeping for small enterprises
which can be done from home too. "Commuting long distances everyday is
a problem for some older persons, these jobs suit them better."
Ever struggling to find avenues for the retired, Rath states, "But
collectively, we have no problem when an older person runs the
country." Rath then hits the nail on the root of the problem. "Today's
older generation had never seen their earlier generation living at
their age, so they never prepared themselves for it. So is the case
with our society and the government, the phenomenon of having so many
healthy senior citizens who are not willing to lead a retired life is
new to all of us. After two-three such generations, we will have a
better way of addressing old age and their needs."
The Foundation runs a 24 hours helpline for older persons. It recieves
about 150 calls a day. The numbers are: 011-29836486 / 29840484
It has used its access to older persons from across the country to do
research work on 15 topics affecting senior citizens so far.
Its counsellors look after about 100 older persons across Delhi
through its scheme of lifetime membership at a one-time fee of
It has a huge volunteer network countrywide. To work as one in any
city, you can call its helpline numbers.
It has published booklets on subjects like how to handle bedridden
patients, and depressed older persons.
Keywords: employment exchange, senior citizens, human interest