Collectives for the elderly in local bodies

To connect and interact with senior citizens to alleviate their social isolation due to COVID-19

Stay-at-home and physical distancing in view of COVID-19 come with a string of psychological fallouts, especially among the elderly. And when it comes to those with no physical contact with children and grandchildren, the burden of isolation is all the more acute.

In order to address the issue and ease the elderly population into the post-pandemic world, the Health Department will form local body-level collectives across the State.

The units are expected to alleviate social isolation and provide senior citizens a community space to connect and interact. The project focusses on comparatively healthy individuals and couples above the age of 60 living alone.

“The pandemic has forced many senior persons to spend nearly two years in the solitude of their homes with minimal social interaction. Some of them are depressed and believe it is the end of the road. We decided to launch this programme seeing their plight with a pilot project in Kollam,” says Dev Kiran, district programme manager, National Health Mission.

Most elderly parents had been regularly visiting their children and grandchildren before COVID-19 made travelling a task. While retired professionals were left with a shrinking social circle, many others suffered serious psychological consequences due to the lonely lifestyle.

“The elderly will be informed about the facility through ASHA workers and they will be encouraged to join the collective. It will be more like a group therapy programme and since it is a collective of persons facing the same issue, they will be able to help each other. In the initial phase, the sessions will be held once a month,” he says.

While the local body will provide refreshments during the sessions, the department will offer other services, including counselling, if required.

The Health Department will be implementing the project with the support of the Kerala State Library Council and libraries in local bodies will be the venue for the sessions.

“We opted for libraries as they used to function as a community space and many elderly persons are used to reading room interactions. Such spaces nearly vanished after the pandemic and another objective is to revive them for the benefit of senior citizens.”

The department is preparing a special protocol to be followed during the meetings since the threat of COVID-19 is yet to subside. “Around 97% of the elderly population is now vaccinated and initially we will be forming groups of 20 to 25 persons. The meetings will be held as per the protocol,” he says.

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