One in two senior citizens suffers from loneliness, and almost every fifth senior in the country is in need of some psychological counselling, reveals a 2017 study conducted by New Delhi-based non-profit Agewell Foundation.
For the longest time, most elderly persons in the country have lived a major chunk of their lives in a multigenerational family. But unfortunately today, more and more of them continue to feel less valued as the younger generation migrate to other cities and towns for livelihood, leaving them empty nesters.
What is it they need then? Perhaps, a place where they can congregate, spend time together and share their joy and sorrows without any restrictions or judgement? A similar-aged friend to love, care and share with, unmet in the own families?
And so, Raipur decided to shine a ray of hope in the lives of the citizens struggling with this void that comes with old age.
In an innovative project to help its senior citizens fight this loneliness, Raipur launched ‘Bapu ki Kutiya,’ under which over 50 attractive hut sheds are being set up in gardens and public places across the state capital exclusively for senior citizens to not only allow them to interact with each other but play games and watch television too.
The Better India got in touch with District Collector Raipur, OP Chaudhary who sums the essence of the project –
“In villages, there are choupals where the elders gather and share good times. They miss such social engagements in the cities. ‘Bapu ki Kutiya’ becomes a place where they can unwind and rejuvenate themselves,” says Chaudhary.
The idea of this initiative came to him when he discussed the pain of the most left out population with his batchmate and friend, Mr Rajat Kumar, from Howard University.
For years now, society has stigmatised the idea of an old age home. And in the light of it, ‘Bapu ki Kutiya’ serves as an entertainment zone for the elderly in the vicinity of their society, which will fulfil their basic need for attention, social interaction and warmth.
The city celebrated the inauguration of the first ‘Bapu ki Kutiya’ at the hands of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Dr Raman Singh, in the Collectorate garden on 27 January 2018.
This ‘Bapu ki Kutiya’ is equipped with an LCD TV with a Tata Sky connection, Karwa radio with old songs, yoga mats, carrom board, chess, seating arrangements, newspapers, magazines and mythological books.
The senior citizens can avail of all the facilities completely free of cost. Some 40-50 senior citizens can spend time at the centre from 7 am to 9 am and in the evening from 5 pm to 7 pm.
The overall budget for setting up 50 ‘Bapu ki Kutiyas’ is around seven crore.
What is impressive is the district’s innovative utilisation of existing fund – which forms the crux of this project. Instead of creating an additional fund for the project, the Collector utilised the idle fund from the Jila Nirashrit Nidhi – which accounts for 1% of the Mandi tax in Paddy procurement.
The fund was utilized for the establishment of the ‘Bapu ki Kutiya’ through Smart City Ltd. Maintenance, and entertainment activities have been entrusted to many NGOs and social organisations – since its a community project.
The ‘Kutiyas’ are being electrified by the Municipal Corporation – which will be bearing its electricity bill, so the only costs the social organisations coming on board have to bear include the TATA Sky recharge expense and newspaper, magazine and books expenses – apart from daily maintenance.
The district authorities have made sure that the construction of these interactive huts are sanctioned, as per the demand made by social organisations, only after they give complete assurance to maintain it. Over 22 social organisations have already shown interest in the project within the initial three days of the release of the tender.
Pranay, whose social service organization Khana Kothi Helping Hands is responsible for the maintenance of the first ‘Bapu ki Kutiya’ centre says, “We organized karaoke, games and motivational talks at the center and we are excited to see how that the initiative is getting a great response from senior citizens.”
Well, Raipur has taken one step forward with this novel initiative for its elderly citizens! We hope many more cities join hands to replicate the model or come up with such innovative projects!