It is said that a well-meaning gift given with warmth can grow on you. Namma Bengaluru received one such Christmas gift in circa 1999. That was when Dr Radha Murthy realised the need for home health services as she had to straddle between tending to her sick husband and her thriving medical career. She decided to take a leaf off her personal necessity to provide a common ground for the ageing people of the metropolis. Prem Kumar Raja joined hands with her towards this noble cause and thus was born the Nightingales Elders Enrichment Centre (NEEC).
This non-profit organisation was focused about its approach towards eldercare not to be misinterpreted as an old age home. On one hand, NEEC decided to provide home healthcare facilities and on the other, they decided to redeem the elderly from ennui and detrimental preoccupations.
A group of earnest volunteers, who chose to support the idea, worked hard on the concept. As a result, NEEC is doing a good job in joining hands with loving families, who are constantly on the lookout to keep the elders of their homes entertained and socially involved. Sometimes, the organisation also takes up the responsibility of taking care of the seniors if the family is away on a vacation or is unable to take care of a convalescing senior citizen for some reason. Nevertheless, its main focus revolves around making life an elevating experience for the elderly.
Enthusiastic bunch What started as a pilot venture in Malleswaram has now blossomed into a vibrant setup with aged members who can give a stiff competition to teenagers in terms of verve and a zeal for life. Members meet just about on all working days, sometimes twice a day, not merely to hobnob, but to also participate in the various activities charted out for them. They listen to varied genres of music, share thoughts and cast their rebuttals when they listen to lectures on a spectrum of subjects from experts, have chat sessions on happenings around the world, play a round of carrom or chess, work on crafts and projects, do with yoga or tai chi besides sharing their experiences and concerns with one another.
Celebration of Raksha Bandhan, Diwali and Pongal help in bringing out the integrated flavour of the festivals. Also, celebrations of birthdays and wedding anniversaries motivate the elders to have fun with their peer group. An occasional picnic, movie or play, rejuvenate them to tackle the routine life with renewed vigour. Attending a wedding or a function together help them bond better. Comforting fellow members and their families during illnesses and consoling them when in bereavement improve their empathy factor. In all, it’s a home away from home for many.
Vasantha Murthy, retired principal of a government college in Andhra Pradesh, says, “Ever since I joined NEEC 16 years ago, it has been a great support for me emotionally. I have had many downfalls but what I am today is because of Nightingales. The physical space may not be eye-catchy but sharing feelings and nostalgic moments with people of my generation makes me feel good.” Shaila Shanker, one of the centre’s managers says that her hands are always full when she is working for NEEC and she’s happy that she ends up learning so many things even while casually chatting up with the members. The fact that many of them have been able to overcome or tolerate depression and detrimental diseases like dementia and Alzheimers almost as a side effect of their enriching exposure.
Constant additions of branches sheds light on the validity of the NEEC’s existence. Kasturi Nagar in Bengaluru welcomed NEEC with open arms in 2000 and Sanjay Nagar started its own branch in 2013. Each branch has its own set of activities, favourite pastimes and friends’ groups, who manage and run the centre on a modest monthly contribution of Rs 250.
NEEC has so much to offer, yet is finding it difficult to cope with the rising demand for trained caretakers. A mix of locals and relocated senior citizens happens to be another challenge because there are so few centres and too many takers. Lack of space, accessibility and mobility has thrown a wet towel on a promising initiative.
The need of the hour is to encourage the elders in the house to go out and interact with people who belong to their age group. This exercise will help them let off steam, discuss problems, enjoy and help one another, and most of all, make them realise the constraints of the changing world. NEEC has made all this possible and is working hard to provide a safe and happy getaway for many senior citizens. It’s time we supported their cause too. For more details, visit www.nightingaleseldercare.com or call 080-42426565.