March 23, 2010

Lets learn a few things from our elders !


      A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed, and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.  His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.  After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.  As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.

     "I love it," he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.  "Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait."  "That doesn't have anything to do with it,' he replied.  Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my room doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged. it's how I arrange my mind.  I already decided to love it.
     'It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up.    I have a choice;  I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.  Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away, just for this time of my life.                                
 Old age is like a bank account.  You withdraw from what you've put in.  So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories!  Thank you for your part in filling my Memory Bank.  I am still depositing.  Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
  1. Free your heart from hatred.
  2. Free your mind from worries.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Give more.
  5. Expect less.


March 13, 2010

Agewell Newsletter - March 2010

Center for Ageing

 March 2010

Age is a matter of mind

Aging can be difficult but not for all the times. Physically we all have to go through it, but psychologically we can remain young throughout our life. We should always remember that even though our physical appearance changes, our mind does not. People in their 70’s or 80’s can be much younger than people in their 30s or 40s. It all depends on one thing and that is our attitude towards our life. People are found complaining about their inability to enjoy fountain of youth, but they are often unaware of the fact that the youthfulness can be retained by simply looking within ourselves and changing our mindset.

Always remember, we are never too old to realize a new dream or set new targets in our life. Also we must realize, just because someone is older, it does not mean that they have nothing left to offer to their family members or society and are incapable of accomplishing great things in their remaining years. Henry Ford truly said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at Twenty or Eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young”.
Optimistic attitude towards life is a resource for healing. By practicing positive self-talk, thinking on "I can" instead of "I can't", reinforcing optimism with a continuous stream of positive affirmations and visualizing the good health we all can improve our outlook.
- Agewell Foundation

Under the Series of Symposiums on Needs & Rights of Older Persons
At Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
On 23rd April, 2010

(A study by Agewell Research & Advocacy Centre)


The experience of isolation or loneliness occurs in all human beings but it becomes a complex problem in Old Age. It is known that isolation is not a necessary accompaniment to ageing and that ageing is not solely responsible for the progress of isolation in older persons. However, there is a deep relationship between ageing and isolation.

Isolation is associated with a number of physical, social and psychological conditions. Generally it is believed that older persons living alone or with their spouses feel isolated. But today older persons living in nuclear or joint families also feel loneliness or isolation due to various reasons, particularly due to lack of social integration, less or no interaction amongst family members, etc.

With fast changing socio-economic scenario living conditions of the people all across the country have changed dramatically. Older persons find it very hard to cope with new socio-economic settings. Feeling of isolation and alienation with a sense of social marginalization is becoming a major problem for majority of the older persons. Thus, ever deepening sense of isolation/loneliness is diffusing the sheen of gracefulness of Old Age.

Research & Advocacy Centre at Agewell Foundation (a consortium of over 1500 NGOs and 6500 volunteers spread across 540 districts of India, committed to initiate better interaction between generations and extend a helping hand) has recently carried out a nationwide survey to study and identify / understand the problem of isolation in Old Age.

Agewell volunteers' network spread across the country worked as interviewers for the survey.


The study was carried out with the objective to identity the level of isolation and loneliness in Old Age, while going through the conditions older persons across the country are forced to live in.

The study was also designed to look out for the responsible causes of isolation in old age and its consequences on the health of the elderly in particular and society in general.


Comprehensive interviews were undertaken by managing time-bound schedules to collect information /impression/views from selected older persons from across the country

Under the survey a representative sample of 10000 older persons (approx. 5000 each from rural and urban areas) was interviewed spread across 20 states of the country.

In each group the target was to include every sections of the society, specifically –

  • Retired older persons
  • Non-pensioners/labourer farmers
  • Housewives
  • Literate
  • Illiterate
  • Financially secure
  • BPL family

Age-group wise classification of respondents

Respondents were further categorized in age group to understand the problem of isolation in old age better
61-70 Years
71-80 Years
81+ Years
Rural-Older Men
Rural-Older Women
Urban-Older Men
Urban-Older Women


v     Process of marginalization of older persons, thus creating isolation in old age has caught its speed over the past few decades.

v     It was found that older persons in the age group of 80+ elderly are feeling more isolation or loneliness in comparison to older persons in lower old age groups.  Over 93% elderly in this age group were found in complete isolation.

v     In the age group of 60-70 years 77.7% older persons also reported that they are going through a phase of isolation. They said that even after their active life they are being isolated in many ways. In age group of 70-80 years 87% older persons were found complaining of isolation and loneliness in old age.


v     83.71% older persons were found isolated in old age (60+). 8371 older persons out of total 10000 older persons contacted by Agewell volunteers said that they feel isolated or experience loneliness in their present life.

v     Level of isolation in old age of older persons living in urban areas was quite higher upto 89.8% in comparison to older persons of rural areas, where 77.62 % people reportedly feel isolated.

v     4490 older persons contacted in urban areas were feeling isolated wherein rural areas only 3891 older persons were found living with a sense of isolation.

v     In rural areas 1119 older persons said that they are not feeling any kind of isolation or loneliness whereas in cities only 510 older persons said they were not isolated.

v     Majority of older persons (44.23%) said that no/less interaction with family members or within society is major cause of their state of isolation or loneliness.

v     37.81 % elderly feel isolated because they were living alone or with their spouse only.

Types of Isolation

  1. Social isolation

It is the persistent withdrawal or absence or avoidance of social interaction. People feel isolated when others ignore their presence or do not give them due importance.

  1. Emotional isolation

It is a condition of isolation when the people are emotionally isolated, but may have a supportive social network

For the study we have divided elderly in two categories;

- Socially isolated elderly: Mainly due to their physical and social conditions
- Emotionally isolated elderly: Due to their strained interpersonal relationships of circumstances.

v     In rural areas 36.84 % older persons were reported isolated socially as well as emotionally.
v     In rural areas 21.7% older persons were found socially isolated and 19.08% older persons were emotionally isolated.
v     In urban areas 39.1% older persons were reported isolated socially as well as emotionally. Here older persons were much affected by emotional isolation (26.4%) than social isolation (24.28%).

Level of Isolation as per family structure

v     When asked about their views on isolation in their life, just 10.1% older persons living in joint families accepted that they consider themselves isolated, within their joint families.

v     In nuclear families about 68.4% older persons said that they are living in isolation, because they do not get adequate company of their family members.

v     Elderly living alone or with their spouses are most affected by isolation syndrome. Approx. 95% elderly living with their spouses & 97% elderly living consider themselves isolated.

v     Out of 1542 elderly living alone 1494 elderly persons said that they are facing problem of isolation.

v     Obviously, level of isolation in old age was found quite higher in cases of elderly living alone or with their respective spouses only.

v     Situation was good in joint families, but even after warmth of traditional joint families, elderly were found affected by isolation within family.

v     When data obtained from rural & urban areas was analyzed separately, it was also found that not as many elderly consider themselves isolated as their counterparts living in urban areas.

Impact of Isolation & Loneliness in Old Age

v     Majority of older persons reportedly complaining about isolation & loneliness in old age (42%) said that they are facing depression due to isolation & loneliness.

v     Every third older person facing loneliness was found in bad health condition because of loneliness and less interaction with people. 35.24% older persons said that their health have deteriorated further since they fell alone.

v     Due to isolation in old age, 16.1% older persons were found feeling unsecured in their lives.

  1. Isolation

Due to isolation in their life, elderly were found affected with the following problems
-         Nervousness & anxiety
-         Panic & aggressive nature
-         Eating disorders leading to health disorders
-         Addictions & substance abuse
-         Feeling of insecurity
-         Financial imbalance

  • 21.3 % older persons reportedly accepted that they feel nervousness and anxiety when they feel isolated. At the same time 17.69% older persons said that their nature has turned aggressive and they live in panic.

  • Another 15% older persons have developed eating disorders due to their isolation.

  • 16.1% elderly got their financial matters disturbed due to isolation related problems.

B. Loneliness

Due to loneliness in their life, older persons were found suffering from the following;
-         Feeling of unhappiness and dejection
-         Increased substance abuse / smoking
-         Uneasiness & distress
-         Reduced self-esteem
-         Increased trauma levels
-         Health disorders like blood pressure

  • When older persons were asked about impact of loneliness on their life, approximately one-fourth older persons facing loneliness (24.1%) said that they have developed health disorders, 17.69% older persons said that they feel unhappiness and dejection in loneliness.

  • 16.14% older persons were found with low self-esteem due to loneliness in their life. In absence of social interaction their interpersonal skills were found at lowest level.

Assessment of mental state of isolated elderly

When the survey team attempted to understand the state of mind of older persons facing isolation, some revealing and surprising facts emerged. It was found that older persons have started adjusting their lives accordingly.

v     35.98% of isolated elderly accepted that they are happy with their kind of life. Whereas 38.9% of isolated elderly said that they are somewhat happy with their life in old age. Only one-forth (25.1%) isolated older persons was not found happy with their life.

v     When volunteers tried to understand the happiness in isolation, it was that majority of isolated older persons (53.0%) were self-conscious. They were self-conscious towards the following,
a.       Their physical appearance
                                                               i.      Gray hair or baldness
                                                             ii.      Wrinkles on the body, particularly on face
                                                            iii.      Poor eyesight/ hearing ability
                                                           iv.      Other old age related problems like weaker teeth, leaning back, etc.
b.      Social appearance
                                                               i.      No knowledge of modern technology like computers, mobile, internet, TV, etc.
                                                             ii.      Being ignored at public places/functions, etc.
c.       Financial appearance
                                                               i.      Less / no income
                                                             ii.      Less income generation ability
                                                            iii.      No employment

During the survey it was noticed that older persons, living in isolation, wanted to interact with younger generations, but they resist themselves because they don’t want to see themselves as ignored or unwanted, realizing younger generation’s unpredictable attitude towards older persons. 

In other words, majority of older people live in their own world, which is full of their past sweet and sour memories of their success and failures, their romance or adventure in their lives.

v     Approximately 1/5th (21.59%) isolated but happy older persons like living alone or isolated because they don’t like modern life style. They had criticized west-oriented culture throughout their lives, that why they want to live within their own set parameters.

v     18.6% older persons accepted that they want to live with peace of mind, that’s why they don’t’ want to involve themselves into other’s life and live alone happily.

According to report older men are found more prone to isolation in old age in comparison to older women. Women were found less self-conscious towards their changed appearances, therefore they were found friendlier in whatever situations.

Paradoxically, it was found that isolated older persons keep themselves busy with various types of activities that in turn keeps them happy as well.

v     21.36% older persons attend or like to participate in social events happening around their residences. 20.12% said that they like to visit their friends/relatives to keep themselves busy. Interestingly 22.0% older persons keep or wanted to keep themselves busy with some kind of social work.


  • In spite of active participation of older persons in family’s financial matters as well as social obligations and having originally possessed major part of the household/land property, they are ignored by younger family members.

  • Social interaction is one of the major factors that determine level of isolation in old age. In rural areas people have more social interactions and less pain of isolation or loneliness.

  • Older persons in urban areas have limited access to social interactions, due to various reasons; consequently they face lower self-esteem and decline in interpersonal skills. They are also found to be more self-conscious.

  • Older persons living in joint families and even in nuclear families have limited or no interaction with their own family members. Interpersonal relations are not found healthy in many cases. This is yet another reason of their loneliness in old age.

  • Isolation or loneliness in old age is critical, as it leads depression/ nervousness causing many diseases. It does not only weaken their mental health but also affects physical health in old age.

  • From the study it was also established that older persons in large number like isolation in old age due to various reasons. They want to live their kind of life in old age.

  • Elderly women were found less isolated than elderly men due to their inner strengths, like patience, fine-tuning with family/society members, etc.

Representative statements from older persons

“At the age of 75, when I need family support, I am forced to live alone. My sons are settled in towns but they have no place for their parent.”
- Ashok Kumar Bhadoria (75 years), Jhansi, UP

 “In a big family of 7 members, there is no one to whom I can share few moments. They are busy with their businesses and I am busy with my loneliness.”
- Mohd. Hanif Khan, a 69-year-old person from Mumbai

“After demise of my wife, my life is filled with sound of silence and color of darkness”
-         Abinash Biswas, 74-year-old person from Burdwan, West Bengal

“I had worked hard for the welfare of my children, but now they have no time for me, instead they treat me as a burden on their family.”
-         Rukmani P Iyer, 85-year-old widow from Chennai


Ever-changing socio-economic scenario of the country has resulted in emergence & popularity of nuclear family system in both, rural and urban areas. Due to heavy migration of younger generation in search of better opportunities, older persons are compelled to live in their houses without their young family members. In absence of their children & grand-children, they felt themselves completely isolated and alone.

As majority of Older Persons had spent their active life in joint families, they find it very difficult to live alone or with their spouses alone. However, a trend of living in isolation, particularly in old age is emerging. This process was seen faster in metros.

So far as Isolation in Old Age is concerned, whereas in rural areas older persons are the major victims of governments developmental policies favoring urban areas, in urban areas elderly are affected due to lack of social & interpersonal interaction among family/ society members.

There is an urgent need to focus on speed up of the developmental projects in rural areas, so that younger generations could seek suitable job opportunities nearby their residences. At the same time, in urban areas, developing social & interpersonal interactions among older persons is urgently required.

On the other hand, older persons need to be motivated and encouraged about how to live happily in isolation.

In short, our older generations never left alone their children, when they were in crisis, how can younger generation leave their elderly alone, when they need them urgently?


Symposium on “Interpersonal Relations in Old Age”
- An effort to strengthen the bond between generations
 (India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 20 Feb.,  2010 )

To discuss the interpersonal relations in old age, in view of completely changed socio-economic scenario & family structure Agewell has decided to organize a symposium-cum-interaction session on Interpersonal Relations in Old Age. The discussion in the symposium focused on reasons responsible for strained interpersonal relations in old age and remedies thereof. Eminent and scholarly personalities like Mr. Kuldip Nayar, renowned journalist and social commentator, Mr. Inder Malik, former Ambassador & writer addressed the symposium and expressed their views on the subject.

In the process of creating elderly-friendly environment across the country, Agewell Foundation, an NGO dedicated towards the welfare & empowerment of Older Persons is organizing interactive symposium on “Interpersonal Relations in Old Age” under the series of Symposiums on ‘Needs & Rights of Older Persons’ at Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi on 20th February 2010 from 6:30 pm. onwards.

Agewell’s series of symposiums is an attempt to sensitize the leaders, policy makers and opinion makers to come together and raise their voice to empower the senior citizens.  Speaking on the latest initiative Mr. Himanshu Rath, Chairman, Agewell Foundation said, “Agewell aims at bringing about a change in the perception of old age and assist older persons to move towards confidence, respect and mutual caring. Over the years, we have initiated several initiatives to facilitate our elderly to make their old age better, happier and healthier.”


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
e-mail:  Website:

March 5, 2010

Adopt through telephone

Parents, Grand-parents... all old and infirm, are only a phone call away. But you don’t have time to call them as regularly as you would like to. Is there a solution to all the loneliness? Agewell Foundation has found an answer for these people.

It is not unusual to see qualified women, living in various small and big cities of India who, though busy managing husbands and children still have time in their hands where they want to do something good and productive.

They have free time when their children are away at school and are willing to do something that would make them feel good about themselves and earn some good karma too. Agewell Foundation has a specific data base of volunteers who can talk via telephone to old people who never leave home.

There are a large number of old people (more women than men) who are unable to go out and mostly home bound with limited interaction with the outside world. Individually within the four walls of almost every home old people are being rejected, ignored, abused or at best tolerated. Collectively something can be done to celebrate old age and show respect to them.

Most of the calls/visits at the Agewell helpline is about loneliness, acute sense of isolation and interpersonal conflict between generations and ironically their need is sometimes just simply to have someone who would listen to what ever is going on in their minds. This bottling up and their psychological alienation reflects on their physical any case many old people are rather self conscious of the changes in the appearance, face expression etc.

Giving them a chance to unburden themselves is a therapy in itself., adopting old people through telephone is an idea generated by Agewell Foundation . It is  beneficial for both, the listener as well as the talker. A chance to forge long distance but heart felt relationships are as complicated and real as face to face associations, it is all about finding far away family.

Agewell invites the talkers and the listeners to register It is always better to participate and interact whenever and as much as possible. email at or call 29836486/29840484.

March 3, 2010

On the occassion of International Womens Day 2010

Agewell Study on Status of Older Women In India
Agewell Research & Advocacy Centre

March, 2010


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.

Recently Agewell Research & Advocacy Centre has methodically conducted a survey of elderly women and brought out some interesting facts on present status of elderly women in India.

Methodology and sample design

Comprehensive interviews were undertaken by managing time-bound schedules to collect information /impression/views from selected older persons from across the country. Under the survey a representative sample of 6000 older women (approx. 3000 each from rural and urban areas) was interviewed spread across 20 states of the country.

In each group the target was to include every sections of the society, specifically –

o       Retired older women
o       Non-pensioners/labourer farmers
o       Housewives
o       Literate
o       Illiterate
o       Financially secure
o       BPL family

Sample Units

The sample units were selected based on random sampling from five divisions as per following;
S. No
Type of sample
No of sample districts
No of  sample blocks*
No of respondents

Region 1 – North India

Uttar Pradesh,
Haryana,  Punjab,  Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand,  Delhi

Region 2 – South India

Andhra Pradesh  Tamilnadu
Kerala, Karnataka

Region 3 – East India

West Bengal, Orissa,  Assam

Region 4 – West India

Rajasthan,  Maharashtra,

Region 5 – Central India

Madhya Pradesh,  Bihar
Jharkhand,  Chhattisgarh

All India Total

* 2-3 blocks were selected from each district for the study randomly, one from a block headquarters and the others from rural area.

Age-group wise classification of respondents

Respondents were further categorized in age group to understand the problem of isolation in old age better
61-70 Years
71-80 Years
81+ Years
Rural-Older women
Urban-Older women



Following are some of the major findings related to older women study-wise;

Role of Older Women in democratic process

o       78.2% older women casted their votes during last general elections. In urban areas elderly women were found more interested in poll process, where 80.1% older women claimed that they casted their votes.

o       61% older women say that health care needs are their primary need in Old Age. Whereas in rural areas 53% older women said that their most important need was food.

Impact of Economic Slowdown on Older Women of India

o       78% of elderly women respondents (79%, 77% and 78% respondents in age-groups of 55-60 years, 61-65 years and 66-70 years respectively) say the economy was in very bad condition and getting worse.
o       Over 66.7% eldery women had started making radical changes such as getting gainful occupational engagements, reducing their expenses on recreational facilities and luxuries.
o       In Urban Areas elderly women were found more affected, as their source of income was directly affected by the economic slowdown.

Status of Older women in Minority Communities

o       74% of older women from minority community were facing health related problems. Percentage of medically affected women was higher in Muslim community (81%).
o       Majority of older women from minority community (74.2%) was dependent on their family members and others for their basic daily needs. Dependency level in rural areas was found higher.

Status of Older Women in Nuclear Families

o       75.2% older women were found living in nuclear or small families. In rural areas 76% older women were reportedly found living in nuclear or small families.

o       Only 18% were living with their joint/extended families. 9% of older women were found living with their respective spouses or all alone.

Isolation in Old Age for Women

o       81.1% older women were found isolated in old age (60+). Level of isolation in old age of old women living in urban areas was quite higher upto 85.1% in comparison to older persons of rural areas (76%)

o       In rural areas 38% older women were reported isolated socially as well as emotionally.

o       Elderly women were found less isolated than elderly men due to their inner strengths, like patience, fine-tuning with family/society members, etc.


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

Ø     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.

Ø     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.

Ø     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.

Ø     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.

Ø     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.