Better at Home

— Mala Ashok

Seniors staying alone is a cause for concern and unfortunately in India it is also a cause for derision at their children for “not looking after them.” Yes, beyond a certain age it is difficult for seniors to stay alone. Yet, our attitudes to seniors living alone has undergone a major shift as more and more seniors vie for independence and would love to live alone as long as humanly possible.

Only a few years back, the children of any seniors living alone were subjected to ridicule and accused of “dumping” their elders in Seniors’ Homes or neglecting them by allowing them to stay by themselves. This, however, is a reality of the twenty-first century and children, with the best of intentions, often need to leave parents alone. This is where institutions come in with a very important role to play.

I and my husband are both seniors, who live in the city of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. We are proud of the fact that Surrey is an age-friendly city. We are in the unenviable position of being part of the sandwich generation. We play this role to the best of our ability but more importantly we are very happy that we can look after ourselves and remain healthy.

The City of Surrey goes a long way in making us independent. They have frequent workshops (Free) and seminars which alert us to the special problems seniors face. More importantly there are Seniors’ Centres city wide which are connected to excellent libraries and offer fitness programs including yoga and meditation, sports such as table tennis, billiards and badminton, computer centres, with classes for excel, word, social networking, and tax preparation.

All the above facilities are offered free or heavily subsidized based on income. There are also Art and Music Programs like Pottery, Knitting, Acrylics, Choir, and dances like cha-cha! I have a classmate in my exercise class who is 94 years old! In my Fit 55+ Cardio class many of my classmates are in their eighties. These men and women are the motivating factors for the rest of us. One of the participants is both deaf and blind – he comes with his caregiver and the instructor does her best to include him.

The seniors’ Centre I’m attached to has a section called People Helping People It is staffed entirely by volunteers like me and is coordinated by a volunteer who is eighty years old. We offer information about all the services in the community.


Since joining these classes I feel both physically fit and at peace mentally. I am able to lead a very productive life as a freelance writer and also do a lot of volunteer work. However, as we are now unable to do all the housework and cooking we sought help. The City has a program called “Better At Home,” whose mandate is to keep seniors from having to leave their homes for sanctuary in seniors’ Residences. The services include maid service, chauffeuring, Friendly Visits, and so on.

Staying physically fit and mentally alert is not the prerogative of Canadians. Here in India Skyping Seniors are becoming the norm rather than the exception as seniors take to social networking like fishes to water!

Lakshmi Ranganathan, an Octogenarian, and devoted grandmother found that the best way to communicate with her grandsons in the U.S was through “Chats” on Skype or GTalk;, she quickly mastered the art of operating the laptop and tablet to enable her to keep up with their activities.

When one grandson found his life partner, Lakshmi wanted to see her and sure enough chat with her on Skype before she acknowledged her to be worthy of her precious grandson. Arjun is now happily married with paati’s blessing. Lakshmi’s family is shopping around for a tablet to enable her to listen to concerts, and her grandchildren singing, on Utube. Her proudest moment came when she saw Arjun performing at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana.

For Achal Narayanan, also an octogenarian, his venture into computer usage and Networking was a natural progression. He retired in 1987 from his job as a journalist and began dabbling as a freelance writer. He is so prolific that one would now be correct in terming him a writer rather than say he is “dabbling!”

These and other seniors are “Better at Home,” even if they have to be alone. Yes, they do need support from some institutions though; and loving families looking them up is also indeed a great help.

About the Author
Mala Ashok has had a diverse career in Insurance, Accounting, Taxation, and Adult Education. She is now a writer. Her forte is writing for chidren.

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