UDHAVI has been inspired by the number of senior citizens “orphaned” and left to their own devices without the support they richly deserve. UDHAVI is dedicated to the memory of our daughter Deepika whom we lost at a young age, a young woman who believed in looking after the elderly and their needs in an informal way.
We are still working on statistics, but the life span in India and throughout the world has been increased, and consequently it is important that the elderly lead a meaningful enriched life without the despair and ill health they suffer with longevity.
Most of the children, encouraged by their parents to better their prospects have migrated and some of them without ensuring that their parents are comfortable. Unfortunately we do not have the infrastructure that the West has for older people where the culture is “independence” at all times in their lives. We hang on foolishly to traditional values, hoping that we will be ultimately cared for by our children, are reluctant to move into Retired People’s Homes worrying over the likely problems in a new territory.
Having closely lived and loved old people most of my life, I thought there was nothing better than creating some kind of support for older people. Whilst there are so many schemes and programmes for the young adults and children, the old are kept on the back burner as persons who have outlived their usefulness. On the contrary, old people are rich in their experience in different fields, and their knowledge can be harnessed in a productive way as specialised consultants. This raises their self worth even if they work on a voluntary basis. One does not realise how enormous their contributions could be to society.
What I feel would help is a networking base to help the elderly. Our first meeting was on August 13 2013 in Chennai, and five volunteers offered their help. Each of them is contributing towards making a better life for the old and the infirm and for caregivers. I now call them mentors who form my core group.
We need to widen our base and each of these dedicated volunteers could get more people to join us thereby creating a ripple in the pond. What are the main functions of UDHAVI?
We locate old people who need help, to register with UDHAVI.
We screen them on eligibility to find out how much of help they really need.
We visit their homes to check on the safety aspect, if their homes are user friendly and the accessories they lack.
We split our volunteers area wise, and the seniors will connect to those people in their locality.
We build a comprehensive data base, which covers doctors, nursing help, nursing homes, hospitals, and visiting doctors, and shops which provide accessories for the elderly. This information has to be held by the core group to share whenever necessary.
Each member of our core group can form their own group of volunteers from that area.
Though we are starting out as a voluntary agency, we do need sponsors for some of our projects, and also for transport stationery etc, and for short trips we hope to make in a van.
We need to look at groups like Help Age, Dignity Foundation and Orion to quote a few and try to give our Senior Citizens what these organisations are not able to provide.
We talk to geriatric doctors who could attend our meetings time permitting and give us pointers on what to do and arrange for house visits by them.
Though it is not a priority at the moment, short trips or visits to certain places, movies or even arranging for shopping at malls would be appreciated.
Above all, total commitment is essential, and with the kind of networking I envisage the entire burden will not rest on a few people alone.
In a nutshell, UDHAVI works towards assisted living, not by giving professional nursing or housekeeping facilities, but offers companionship, assistance in small chores round the house, and offering learning skills to the elderly.
Passion for elders, textiles, craft. Foodie. Writes whenever Lady Muse sits on her shoulders. Handpicked dedicated core members. Loves her flock, but reins them in when fellowship overtakes work.
Sanjay is an ex-director and investor in Old is Gold Store – India’s first retail outlet for seniors. With a master’s degree in computer science under his belt, Sanjay is one of the tech savvy advisors in Udhavi. His sense of humour lightens the intensity of work during our meetings.
Jayashree has a background as a software professional and her journey from an employee to entrepreneur was a short one. She is a co-founder of Old is Gold Store, a store for the senior citizens. She was one of the first to join UDHAVI and her association with UDHAVI has been a natural one since her enterprise was founded on a need to make the life of elders comfortable & dignified, a space she understood very well.
An Executive Committee Member of the Crafts Council of India, she will rush to any corner of the city when she knows an elder is in need and is gifted with tireless energy. Ready for hospital service, she is our Florence Nightingale!
A mother figure to the members, Rajam has proved that age is no barrier to work, and is always dependable and resourceful, an internet mami as she scours the net to provide valuable information for our database. Physically and mentally active, her passion is to provide simple but delicious home cooked food on a no profit basis to those seniors living in her area. Rajam’s hospitality is legendary and her spreads during meetings held in her home are hard to resist! She is also an active member of the Crafts Council of India
Lalitha is our scribe and a charming compere for most of our events and she is able to present a seamless connect to the occasion. A disciple of the legendary Yogacharya Krishnamacharya, she is passionate about yoga and an ardent believer in alternate therapies. She contributes regularly to the UDHAVI website, and brings in welcome laughter to our otherwise serious meetings!
A former educationist, Sudesh Sharma takes her duties seriously and heads the department of visits to elders, and lack of volunteers never deters her and she clocks in so many visits a month that we have lost count. A cook par excellence she is always eager to feed all who visit her.
Srikumar is a sales and marketing professional and his passion for senior care led him to launch Care Finder. He has brought energy and professionalism into UDHAVI. Tell him to do a job today and he completes it yesterday! Sri along with Sanjay has brought colour into an all woman group.
Meena though a recent but precious find, ran a Nursery School in Calcutta, and was involved in the garment fashion industry. She has carved a niche for herself in UDHAVI with her foray into regular visits in North Chennai, her gentle smile and warmth breathing life into depressed elders Teaching young children brought Meena, a loving caregiver, into our fold and so she understands “second childhood” better than most.
57 years young, a nutritionist through qualification, a teacher by passion, and a woman who laughs her way through life and its manifold diversities. Bubbly and active, her “never say die” attitude is to be emulated. Having a happy learning experience to help our elders and in turn learn so much in return!
A passion for design led her to giving up a corporate job and start a design firm which is now partnered by her daughter, an architect. A thorough professional, she is an asset to our Core Group. The 7 dogs and three cats she has adopted is proof of her love for all things living!
Sachu radiates joy and energy whenever she visits our elders. Keenly interested in music and yoga, she has histrionic talents which she keeps under cover. Though a recent addition to our fold, Sachu was quick to learn the ropes, and charms the elders she visits. Her homemaking instincts have helped groom her into a wonderful, concerned caregiver
Deeptha Thattai has a PhD from the US besides a string of accomplishments. This petite young lady is an enthusiastic volunteer, understated but very efficient and reliable and her sharp eye detects many a flaw in our working! After working on and off, she decided her first calling was family, looking after her young child and, of course, service to the community. A talented writer and editor, her poetry and prose in her blogs are a joy to read. She loves to read, do crosswords and watch nature documentaries. Welcome back to UDHAVI Deeptha!
Renuka is a Delhite settled in Chennai for the last forty years. Very socially active, her hobbies include music and cooking. Her flair for languages is an added asset as she can communicate with most of our elders in the language they are comfortable with. She is on call for help through the day, volunteers to take calls for registration, and we lean on her when we run short of volunteers.