#VinitasPune: The Trauma Of Our City’s Senior Citizens Who Live Alone

Senior Citizens being abandoned
Image used for representation only

Apart from the crimes against the elderly in Pune who live alone, the health factor is a growing concern for this fraternity as can be observed from several cases of falling unconscious due to various health issues and no one to attend to them for several hours or days.

A report…

It’s disturbing that, in the last one month, I’ve come across three cases, where a senior citizen, living alone, fell unconscious and it took several hours or days, for the neighbours to notice. While two of them who were rushed to hospital, survived, one of them died. 

Last month, my maid who also works in another apartment, where a very smart teacher in her sixties, stays alone, came in the morning, as usual, saying she is not opening the door, so she will finish my work first.

I told her she needs to ascertain why she hadn’t opened the door as she otherwise promptly wakes up in the morning and is off to her nursery school by 7.30 a m. The rickshaw driver too who comes to pick her up to take her to the school, rung the bell but there was no response. Finally, I apprised the chairman of the society and I called the police and fire brigade, as, the neighbour had the door key but the grill door inside it was firmly locked. The police cut open the grill door and found her lying unconscious.

She was rushed to the hospital, where she lay in a coma for several days. Fortunately, she gained back her consciousness. The reason being her blood sugar levels had gone high.

In another case, around the same time, a senior citizen, a former senior executive in an automobile company, lives alone in a housing society in Pune Camp.  After some of the neighbours realised that he had not opened the door for a couple of days, they went to the police station to lodge a complaint. The police broke the door and found him, fallen, in an unconscious state. Apparently he may have been in this condition for two days. He was rushed to the hospital and has luckily survived.

Last week, when I called up my friend, she told me that they are grieving for the death of her Uncle. He too was a senior citizen, residing alone, and it was too late when the neighbours discovered that he had not opened the door for a couple of days. 

This is indeed a scary situation and if one comes across such cases in quick succession, it is safe to assume that it is a major problem for senior citizens who live alone, and there are aplenty in our city. Loss of a spouse or the elderly couple living in different cities or children and their families living abroad or in another city render one alone at home. Also, not that these senior citizens are debilitated or invalid – they could be energetic young senior citizens but lifestyle diseases could lead to such traumatic situations when for example, your blood sugar levels rise or drop or you experience giddiness due to some medication or not having medication regularly.

What’s concerning is that, in such a situation, you are not unable to even reach your mobile to call for help nor can you raise an alarm? For, you have simply passed off temporarily.  What does one do in such a situation is the big question. 

There are some noble steps taken by some voluntary forums. For example, the Salisbury Park Residence Forum offers care facilities to 80 senior citizens of the neighbourhood wherein 20 volunteers visit them regularly and also help them perform their tasks like taking them to the doctor or shopping for grocery for their needs.

The Dignity Foundation too runs a helpline service for the elderly in six cities. Pune’s helpline number is  020 2685 1221. The website states:`Distress calls from elders seeking assistance are handled by a qualified social worker. Volunteers trained in basic counselling are sent to the senior citizen’s residence on a fact-finding mission.

Thereafter, appropriate assistance is provided to the aggrieved caller. ‘’Mayacare too has a set of young volunteers who visit homes of senior citizens to run errands for them or give them company for a while, reading out newspapers to them or even taking them out for a movie. However, the issue of them not being able to reach anyone due to having fallen unconscious remains a contentious one and one that we all need to be worried about.

As per the  `Situational Analysis Of Elderly In Pune City’ study report done by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in 2016, 29.3% of senior citizens (60 years and above)  suffer from loneliness, 29.3% from insufficient medical care and 27.6% suffer from poor health.

Clearly, these are causes for emergency situations like falling unconscious. The report states thus: “The most common issues that elderly complain of are insufficient money (46.4 %), loneliness (29.3 %), insufficient medical care (29.3 percent, )poor housing (35.7 %) and poor health (27.6 %). A noteworthy 19.4 percent of elderly feel alone due to lack of companionship, 9.9 percent of elderly feel that being neglected is a serious problem, where a higher percentage of women complain of neglect than men. Overall a staggering 10.8 percent of elderly have reported of being financially exploited, and the percentage of elderly reported having faced physical and verbal abuse is 8.2 percent. Where abuse is reported, it is marginally higher for men in comparison to their female counterparts.’’

What steps can be taken to help senior citizens in such distress? Maybe technology or some alarm system within one’s body could be the answer and techno-savvy experts could provide solutions for that.

Until then, this issue remain a huge concern and cause for worry.


Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

Passion for the written word that comes alive, not only to tell a story, but to speak out loud about all that's good, bad and the ugly in society...

That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.

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Vinita Deshmukh