Verve, vigour and vitality intact
At 90, A. Shanmugam's joie de vivre of life is unbeatable. He goes on at least two long-distance trips a year.
A few months ago, when he registered for a seven-day trip to Andamans along with other members from the Tamil Nadu Senior Citizen Association, many were taken aback.
But Mr. Shanmugam surprised everybody in the group with his spirit. "He takes all precautions when he goes on tours. For instance, he took a doctor, a senior citizen himself, with him to Andamans, so we were assured of his health," says his daughter Malathi.
There are many senior citizens out there like Mr. Shanmugam, who, despite their age, love going on tours or keep themselves busy with different activities.
From a brisk walk along the beach every morning to yoga sessions to dance classes to indoor sports, for most senior citizens each of these is a form of entertainment to keep them engaged, healthy and meet peers of their age group.
However, many such activities are limited to members of an organisation or club, and the patronage depends on how accessible the place is.
Dignity Foundation, for instance, is looking for more venues where Chai Masti centres can be started to alleviate senior citizen of boredom through various activities. "Many of our members do not make it to our centre at Ashok Nagar because of the commute. Ideally a place in Anna Nagar, Adyar and T.Nagar that can accommodate 40-50 people and that can be given on a part-time basis is our requirement," says A.R. Sreeja, general manager, Dignity Foundation, Chennai chapter.
V. Hariharan, member of Tamil Nadu Senior Citizens Association, suggests that the government build a free day care centre in some major localities to encourage better interaction. However, some elderly who stay alone are afraid of venturing out, while for many getting somebody to hear them talk is the best entertainment.
Most associations agree that site-seeing tours are most sought-after by seniors but lack of enough tour operators who cater to this age group, restrict outings to places in and around the city. D. Rajasekaran, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Senior Citizens Association, says as tour operators never come up to the satisfaction of the elderly, they decided to organise trips by themselves.
"Demand for such trips is only increasing. In the last one year, we have organised four such trips for groups of 30-40 to places such as Malaysia, Nepal and Singapore," he says. To run errands, the group would always have five-six members who are in their thirties. "This way all requirements of the senior citizens are ensured and as we organise budget is less by 10-15 per cent," he adds.