Fancily dressed and bubbling with energy, a group of participants were having a chirpy time backstage. The picture was that of a school where participants were all set to make an entry to the stage to perform in a skit. Some in the attire of Rama and Sita, some as Surpanakha, another Ravana but many donned attire of yesteryear actors to walk the ramp for a fashion show at Elderly Fest organised in the city on Sunday. One hardly could come to terms with the fact that almost all other than the organisers were mothers and grandmothers.
In the present day life where most parents are left to fend for themselves post-retirement with their children staying away; some have gotten together to not waste any time in loneliness in the confines of the home. They spend hours together at a place having fun, sharing concerns, watching movies, practising yoga and good health practices, doing charity. Providing this space and facilities to the elderly is the Silver Age Foundation. A first of its kind initiative in the state, the foundation is taking baby steps to brighten up the lives of the older generation with the aim of #HealthyAgeing.
NIYATI PANDA, Member SAF
“We are all so happy for getting to do what we should have done years ago. We meet three days a week for two hours at the foundation where we do Yoga, meet doctors on any health issue, and undertake various other activities. Not surprisingly our problems of spondylolysis or body ache, blood pressure and sugar have all been solved,” said Niyati Panda who joined the foundation in August 2018.
RENUKA PANDA, Member SAF
“These sessions have a lot of meaning. What we left 25 years ago, we have regained all that. Our founder members and trustees have taken all care to make our presence here meaningful. They take us out for picnic, eating out, and sightseeing. We are grateful to the foundation,” said another member Renuka Panda.
KUMUDINI ACHARYA, Member SAF
“Now we are all leading lonely lives as our children are outside. Some have lost their husbands and others their wives. Even some couples are lonely. But ever since I joined SAF, I have got a new lease of life. Even when our children are here with us, they are engaged in their own activities. We have become energetic after doing yoga and practising healthy habits," added Kumudini Acharya, retired curator, Odisha State Museum.
At a time when family values have been pushed to the backburner overtaken by lifestyle changes and taken a toll on the society as a whole, a commitment to self is what most members of the SAF have adopted. They want to live life for themselves in their twilight years and in their own words, they don’t want their children to be burdened with the thought of their well being.
JAYANTI RATH, Member SAF
“Earlier we were always under the pressure to do something for someone else and never gave time to ourselves. Now we have got it. We have a no-holds-barred life here. We engage in all those activities that we had forgotten in the rush to give the best to our family. We are all mostly single and lonely. My son stays outside India. But today, there is not an iota of loneliness. We are happy and we got the opportunity to perform on stage,” said Jayanti Rath.
MEENA PADMANABHAN, Seniormost member SAF
There were some who surprised with their zeal for life. Octogenarian and the senior-most member of SAF, Meena Padmanabhan proudly reveals her identity as an ex-KV school teacher. “I am inspired and impressed. There are two angels Lucy and Kini and both took me to the SAF where I learnt so many things. Today I am playing multiple roles in the programme,” says Meena aunty. She was playing Ravan in Ramayan, did yoga in the first presentation and later also walked the ramp as Zeenat Aman in retro based fashion show.
It may not be the fashion show that we all look up in awe, but was certainly a ramp walk with a difference. The audience, that was mostly full of elderly people and their children, went berserk as the members walked on 'Chandni O meri Chandni,' and 'Dum Maro Dum.'
LUCY PATNAIK, Founder SAF
“We founded SAF in 2017 with an activity centre where we now have nearly 50 to 60 members and all are in the age of 60-85 years. We intend to make them empowered at an age where they normally depend on children or someone else. Our aim is to give them a ‘#HealthyAgeing’ programme. They spend time and learn a lot of things like music, yoga, digital literacy, doctors' talk, we take them out for luncheon, movies and much more. What is important is most of them who joined us with some health issues are all fine now. They are committed to make their lives enjoyable. I feel being on the stage at this age is commendable and the happiness and glow in them is indescribable,” said Patnaik.
The age that saps people of energy has stopped for many SAF members. When people lose hope for anything big and bright, these elderly men and women showcase the energy and life that can give the youngsters a run for their life. Our parents deserve to be cared and nurtured. They never left us lonely, why should we?