Membership Fee: Rs 100/-
Present Strength: 800 (May 2011)
When the joint family system broke up in the early decades of the last century the security and close kinship enjoyed by the members of a family suffered serious damage. The most affected in this calamitous change were the two hapless sections—the young and the old. While the earning members went chasing their bread and butter, or worried more about their career, the young and theold at home were thrown to the mercy of servants, or worse, left to fend for themselves. Being flexible, the young could cope with the situation, often with disastrous consequences; the old , accustomed to certain ways, found the going tough.
Many people adopted a quick-fix solution to the dilemma: send the children to hostels and the parents to old-age homes. But it did not yield salutary results. The children returned home with maladjustment problems and the parents spent their evening years moaning their cursed fate . Reports from inmates of some old-age homes—some well-run ones at that!—make depressing reading. Most of them have few complaints about food, sleeping arrangements or freedom of movement; what they miss and acutely crave for is their home and intimacy of the kind that can come only from the near and dear ones. They, like children, thirst for affection, tactile pleasure and simple hedonic talks. Of course, one cannot wish for these things in any old-age homes.
It is a pity that today these are scarcely noticed even in many of our homes! The old people seldom get to see their own offspring or grandchildren, who are harried in the morning and tired (when they return) in the evening which might often be late. In most modern homes meal times are on ‘as-and-when basis’. They rarely eat together except perhaps on Sundays. Then also the omnipresent TV takes precedence. Any small talk by way of endearments, query about health or other matters rarely happens.
In such an atmosphere of deafening silence old people feel suffocated. They feel they are unwanted, a burden on others. In many homes they have no privacy, have to be content with some space in a corner. Their little medical problems are dismissed as trifles and diseases that require immediate hospitalization or surgery are not attended to with the required urgency. The litany of complaints is endless, and there is nobody to unburden them on.
It is such unfortunate situations that the Edappally Senior Citizens Forum seeks to overcome. The Forum is not a substitute for either the old-age home or for one’s own home. It is rather a haven in between : one that seeks to keep the finer elements of both while supplementing the missing parts without disturbing the family roots. Here the Forum provides a venue where senior citizens can meet with like-minded people, exchange news and views, play indoor games and amuse themselves in numerous ways. They can attend medical camps arranged in the Park on the first Sunday of every month and seek advice of specialists on any ailment they suffer from, free of cost. They can also join with family in occasional picnics to interesting places, far and near, organized for their health and amusement at nominal cost. Needless to say, the large number of people—retired bureaucrats, college professors, school teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, artistes etc. etc. (it is a mixed group)—who make up the Forum find it richly rewarding.
In fact, the size and variety of the background of its members make the Forum a rich bank of knowledge and experience. It really is a mammoth Think Tank of rare talents not yet properly exploited.
The Edappally Senior Citizens Forum is an organization registered under the Charitable Societies Act. Anybody above the age of 60 years is free to join it, the membership fee being just Rs 100/-. It has nearly 600 members on its rolls now. The Forum is ably guided in its stimulating activities by Prof. T.P. Antony (President) and Prof. P.C.Markose (Secretary). Mr A.N. Shenoy is the Treasurer.
In order to facilitate free expression of the artistic and other abilities of the senior citizens and thus help them unwind themselves while providing entertainment to others, the Forum holds an Azhchavattom programme at 6.30 p.m. every Tuesday. Over the years this programme has become very popular. Here members are free to sing, tell stories, narrate anecdotes or discuss anything of topical interest including matters of health and ailments.
One unique feature that singles out Edappally Senior Citizens Forum is the way it honours its members on their birthdays. Taking a cue from Carlyle’s dictum ‘What is honoured is cultivated there’ it sends a small team of members with flowers to the house of each member to wish him/her well on his/her birthday. The team stays on, if invited, to partake of refreshments with the host family, lending an air of merriment and bonhomie to the occasion. This is not all. There would be a ceremonial reception at the Park—again with flowers and refreshments-- to all those who had their birthdays in the same month, on the first Sunday of the following month.The families of the members being honoured, are invariably invited to the reception.
Yet another laudable custom is the bestowal of special honours on all members who have attained the venerable age of 80 years. All such members would be invited with family for the celebration, which is usually arranged on the Republic Day. The guests would be ceremonially led to their chairs on the dais and after formal introduction and wishing them all well, each of them would be solemnly adorned with a ponnada accompanied by flowers. The guests would be asked to speak, if they so desire, about their life experiences or on any other topic. All those assembled would then be served refreshments.
Dates to remember:-
Vridha din—November 30
Ashtathi (80-year-old’s) pooja—January 26