Newsletter August 2009

Center for Old Age

NEWSLETTER August 2009

Let’s respect our culture and traditional values

India has a rich diversity of culture and tradition. It's probably the only country where people of so many different origins, religious beliefs, languages and ethnic background coexist. The traditional Indian culture is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. From an early age, children are reminded of their roles and places in society. This is reinforced by the fact that many believe gods and spirits have integral and functional role in determining their life. Strict social taboos have governed Indian society for thousands of years. Till independence, among developing countries, India had low levels of occupational and geographic mobility. People used to choose same occupations as their parents and rarely move geographically in the society. But after independence rate of migration of people from rural areas to urban areas has increased significantly.

The culture of India comprises Humanity, Tolerance, Unity in diversity and Secularism. If India’s culture tended to become tolerant, accommodating, open-minded, deeply but not ostensibly spiritual and concerned with the common human welfare, then it is due to the great and relentless efforts of our great ancestors and leaders. Thanks to them our country has achieved a common culture, despite a staggering pluralistic society.

The culture of India is one of the oldest cultures in the world. Right from the medieval period there prevail diverse cultural diversities in form of dances, languages, religions, people, their customs and festivals. Every state of India has its own distinct cultures and has carved out its own cultural niche. In spite of so much of cultural diversities, Indian's are closely bond and makes India as a great country perhaps because of its common history. Dating back to over 5000 years old civilization, India's culture has been adorned by migrating population, which over a period got absorbed into the Indian way of life.

However, roots of Indian culture and traditions are very deep in the hearts of people, but due to changing socio-economic scenario worldwide a trend of ignoring/neglecting great cultural and traditional values is being seen in our younger generations.

Our culture teaches us that our elderly are most respectable citizens of our society. Let’s respect our culture and traditional values and ensure a respectful, healthier and happier environment for our elderly.


Agewell’s latest Initiatives – at a glance

Symposium on

‘Older Persons: Custodians of Heritage,

Culture and Tradition’

India Habitat Centre, New Delhi (24th June 2009)

Agewell Foundation has organized its 18th symposium under the series of "Needs & Rights of Older Persons" titled ‘Older Persons: Custodians of Heritage, Culture and Tradition’ at India Habitat Centre on 24th June 2009. Leading the Symposium were eminent personalities like Dr Karan Singh, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations as the guest of honour and Pandit Birju Maharaj, well-known exponent of Kathak & Capt. M S Kohli, Chairman, Himalayan Environment Trust as key speakers. The series of Symposiums urges everybody to support and take forward Agewell’s initiative of educating the Older persons about their rights & needs and reminding the younger generation, the concerned persons, government officials, bodies, institutions and others of their duties towards their elders.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Karan Singh said, “Despite of our great respect towards our cultural heritage, tradition and arts, our cultural heritage is on the verge of collapse. Our younger generation is much impressed by western lifestyle and gradually forgetting its traditional value systems. We need to resurrect our traditional value system and encourage our great cultural heritage at all levels. Initiatives like change and reform in our educational system, increased role of concerned organizations in this regard, etc. can certainly make a difference. Older persons are undoubtedly custodians of our heritage, culture and tradition. We need to bridge the gap between generations in order to conserve, preserve and develop our cultural heritage, traditions and arts.”

Pandit Birju Maharaj, another distinguished guest present at the symposium also expressed his concerns about diminishing value system and Indian cultural heritage and traditions. He said that it has become major challenge before all of us as how to protect great Indian cultural heritage, traditions, arts & crafts. Capt. M S Kohli of Himalayan Environment Trust also shared his views on the subject and suggested a few tips to Older Persons on how to live their lives gracefully and respectfully.

During interactive session all the distinguished guests and participants from all walks of life appreciated the initiatives taken by Agewell Foundation in this direction. Talking on the occasion, Mr. Himanshu Rath, Chairman, Agewell Foundation said, “Our cultural heritage and traditions, which have been developed over the centuries and transferred one generation to another are today struggling to survive due to changed socio-economic scenario and fast changing value system. Older persons are our cultural ambassadors in true sense. If more is not done to raise visibility and relevance of older persons they run the risk of disappearing from national consciousness. Agewell is therefore emphasizing the need of utilizing life time accumulated traditional cultural knowledge skill and experience of Older Persons for social issues of to-day and thus enabling Older Persons to become visible and relevant to family/society.”


Symposium on

Needs & Rights of Older Women

India Habitat Centre, (23rd July, 2009)

In the series of symposiums on various Needs & Rights of Older Persons, on 23rd July 2009 2009 Agewell Foundation has organized yet another Symposium on Needs & Rights of Older Women at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Smt. Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi presided over the symposium. Among the other eminent personalities Mrs. Asha Das, IAS, Former Secretary, Government of India, Prof. Kiran Walia, Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Delhi Government and Mrs. Vidya Ben Shah, noted Social worker were present as Key speakers.

India has a population of 8 crore older people out of which 57% approx 4.5 crore are older women. Delhi itself comprises of 6.7- 7 lakh older women out of the 12 lakh older populace inhabiting the city.

Speaking on the occasion, Smt. Sheila Dikshit not only expressed her concern about living and health condition of older women in India particularly widows, but also suggested few useful tips on how to lead a graceful life in their old age.


Older Women in India - Agewell’s Perspective

Old women have restricted social interaction, limited earning possibilities, several medical complications, emotional isolation (in many cases even from their own children), very limited knowledge or awareness of their legal rights and natural reluctance to seek justice. In many Indian societies women are considered second class citizens. They have been legging behind in almost all walks of life for centuries. They have never been financially independent. Due to less social interaction they even don’t know about their rights and powers. They are always dependent on male members of the family for their basis needs, even for day-to-day requirements.

Older women have more critical problem than older men. Due to social and traditional family structure they are forced to live with many limitations. Hence they find themselves marginalized and isolated all the time. As women live longer than men, most older women have to live a life of a widow in their silver years.

Although there are many social organizations and activist working for empowering women through various mediums, and laws have also been made for protection and empowerment of women, older women lead a marginalized life and many women still live a neglected and miserable life.


Due to negligence, lack of awareness, financial support and religious mindset of women, older women often have to face acute health problems.


Generally women are not financially independent in India. From time to time several laws came in to force to secure financial empowerment of women. Today many older women have property/money but they can not possibly use the money or take financial decisions on their own. Social traditions don’t allow them to use their ancestral property / money for their own welfare. They may be rich or poor, they always have to act according to others’ directives.


In old age most of the older women face family problems like uncomfortable relations with daughters-in-law, limited interaction with children, grand-children. Their daughters-in-law don’t like their interference in family matters, children are busy with their jobs, their husbands invariably have mood swings after retirement and mostly restrict their free movements.


Most old women are self conscious. Due to their home-bound lifestyle they don’t attain confidence even in their young life. Changes in appearance in old age, dependence on spectacles, hearing aids, receding hairline, wrinkled skin… everything makes them more and more self-conscious.


In old age almost all the women turn towards religion. Most women turn to religious activities like Satsang, Pravachan, pilgrimage, etc. after loosing their life-partner or any other family members. Some are from orthodox/religious background and have been following religious lifestyle since childhood.

Urban – Rural Divide

Older women, who live in cities, are more prone to social alienation/marginalization in comparison to older women of villages. Joint family system is still alive in villages. Older women, who live in semi urban situations/industrial townships also find it difficult to cope with old age, particularly after their children have grown up and husbands retire.

Through symposium Agewell focused on the following;

  • Special Laws for safety & security of older women: As they have to remain at home all the time and due to their physically poor health they become vulnerable for unscrupulous relatives & criminals.
  • Laws for protection of rights of older women: In many cases it has been seen that younger family members always manipulate situations in their favour and don’t let the older women to use their rights. In many cases it has also been seen that some younger women mis-utilized anti-dowry laws to harass their mothers-in-law.
  • Extra financial relief for older women: Such as extra Income-tax concession for older women in addition to Rs. 10000 for general women announced in the recent budget.
  • Revised pensions for older women : After death of their retired husbands they get reduced pension amount, whereas their family expenses remain same.
  • Amendment in Parents Maintenance Act : Special provisions for those women, who have daughters only to ensure their maintenance in old age.
  • Better health support systems for older women


Publication & Distribution of “Training Manual”

(for better care of older persons and support for their care-givers)

In collaboration with Ford Foundation

Looking after welfare of older persons, particularly bed-ridden older persons, Agewell Foundation has recently joined hands with Ford Foundation and took the assignment of publication and distributions of Old Age Care Training Manual. This project is supported by Ford Foundation.

“Training Manual” (for better care of older persons and support for their care-givers) would include:

- Some common problems and their solutions

- Some frequently asked questions and their answers

- Methods for physical and psychological assistance

- Counseling and tips for the family members

- Information and details to get answers for specific individual problems

Agewell will distribute booklets through its volunteers and Agewell Helpline Centre spread across the country. Since in most of the households, care-givers are invariably family members (mostly women), it is proposed to distribute booklets though –

  • Select gynecologists’ clinic
  • Psycho Therapy Centres
  • Clinics which deal with gerontology and related ailments
  • In response to calls & visit at Agewell Helpline
  • RWAs and other local bodies
  • Senior citizens forums and older persons self-help groups
  • Pension distribution counters at banks/Post offices
  • Counters for old age pension at social welfare boards, etc.


InteractWell – A Social Networking site for older persons

Agewell Foundation is launching a dedicated Social Networking site for older persons “InteractWell” as it’s another innovative initiative for older persons.

For any old age related problem, suggestions, participation, registration as a volunteer, contribution
or further details please visit us at or contact us.

To help Older Persons across the country, we need your help.
Contributions to Agewell Foundation are exempted u/s 80G of the Income-tax Act.
FCRA No.231660163

Let's add life to their years!

Agewell Foundation
M-8A, Lajpat Nagar-II, New Delhi-110024, INDIA, Ph.: 91-011-29836486, 29840484 Fax: 29830458,
e-mail: Website:

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