Slum Interventions

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Slum Interventions

Integrated Social Support and Health Security For The Elderly in Mumbai and Chennai

Says Sheilu Sreenivasan, the Founder President, "Even to serve the poor is not an opportunity one can easily get in life, except as a grace from above" is an oft repeated dictum I have heard as a child. Twenty full years after the setting up of Dignity Foundation, to be now endowed with this sort of an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the cause of very poor senior citizens is the news I want to share with you all. "The National Stock Exchange (NSE) headquartered in Mumbai has selected our Project for sponsorship that will enable us to undertake a Programme of Action for the Elderly Poor in the Slums of Mumbai and Chennai".

These two cities have been selected by NSE. In a process lasting two years we would empower 16,800 poor senior citizens in these two cities. “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well” is my personal view. And we chugged along all these years with whatever resources one found along the way. Now with this new enablement for establishing newer milestones in the growth history of our Foundation we hope to intensify the new direction that has opened up.

Rationale for Action Programme

As the highly educated readers of Dignity Dialogue it must be common knowledge for you that the key problems faced by poorer senior citizens are:

  • Financial insecurity
  • Health related problems
  • Loneliness
  • Elder abuse
  • Impediments to mobility

These aspects lead to loneliness, depression, suicidal tendencies even while living with adult children. Among competing economic pressures of the working class children, on whom the elderly poor are dependent, a sense of fear, insecurity and final disempowerment if they opted to speak up about their impoverished and neglected conditions result in real disempowerment sooner than later. While the smaller children of the adult children receive priority over the needs of the “oldies” , a highly sensitive and subtle inequilibrium develops in the enjoyment of scare comforts at home. The senior citizen is finally driven to live in the fringes of the family structure. His/her awareness about laws, policies and support programmes of the Govt and other large bodies is very low.

Empowering senior citizens with basic awareness and gifting them with various services already in existence at Dignity Foundation came to be seen as the most important act we could undertake -- but with funding support.

Four poorer and congested localities in Mumbai ( BDD Chawl Worli, Dharavi, Jogeshwari East and Sion East Transit Camps) and two in Chennai ( Kannagi Nagar and Saidapet) have been selected for our action programme. One Coordinator for each Locality have been appointed; five Volunteers in each of the 6 Localities have also been nominated. A Project Manager at the HO has also been appointed.

Project Manager
Dilip Chauhan

The Intervention programme throws up an unexpected emergence of an ordinary office boy of 15 years in the Foundation head office, Dilip Chauhan, as an effective community organiser in a poor locality called BDD Chawls in the Worli area of Mumbai. The Foundation is proud to feature this emergence.

Intervention programme

The intervention in each locality would be structured as talk sessions and workshops. The areas that would be covered through these workshops would be as follows:

  • Financial Awareness and Financial Inclusion
  • Health and Hygiene awareness sessions
  • Awareness about government schemes and benefits
  • Awareness about NGO programmes for senior citizens
  • Senior Citizens ID card programme in Maharashtra
  • Awareness about Alzheimer’s / Dementia
  • Awareness about rights and legal recourse available for senior citizens
Beside the sessions / workshops on the above topics there would be additional activities such as:
  • Health Camps on general medical health, vision, hearing, etc.
  • Provision of cataract detection, referrals, surgeries and follow-ups
  • Distribution of medicines and aides such as walking sticks, spectacles, hearing aides, etc.
  • Workshop on skill development for earning livelihood for the able bodied
  • Distribution of basic ration to the very poor
  • Cultural programmes and intergenerational activities

Senior citizens are very insecure about their health. However, given the high cost of healthcare, they tend to ignore a problem till it becomes large and critical. A regular health check up can help tremendously in identifying problems early enough so that it can be treated. The objective of health camp is to provide a battery of tests free to senior citizens so that they are able to benefit from this preventive healthcare. Investigations like blood sugar, blood pressure, hearing test and consultation facilities for Medicine, Eye, ENT, General Surgery, Dental, Dietetics & Nutrition and Ortho will be offered free of cost during the proposed health camps.