The sight of aged people struggling to walk on potholed roads, uneven footpaths or trying to find their way around crowded malls, railway stations and bus stands, is quite common in the city.
As another International Day of Older Persons arrives, the older folk living in Bengaluru, feel the city does not have enough infrastructure in public places to support them. With their children busy with their jobs and their own life, venturing out alone without a proper support system has become a challenge. Seventy-six-year old Srinivas Prabhu, a retired bank employee, says he finds walking on city roads a big problem.
“There are no footpaths to walk on these days and those that exist are uneven. There is the danger of losing one’s balance all the time. It is also difficult to cross the road because the zebra crossing is not clearly marked and the continuous flow of traffic makes it impossible to cross the road without help,” says Srinivas, who lives in Ananthanagar.
There are a lot of parks that have a walking track but they are so crowded that it makes it impossible for the older folk to walk without the possibility of being pushed around by the other walkers in the park.
Krishna Rao is 76 years old and says that there must be separate spaces demarcated for the elderly.
“I prefer walking to places that are nearby and I usually take the bus to places that are far. I find it difficult to walk on the roads in the morning because of the stray dog menace. I also find some of the stone slabs on the footpath missing,” says Krishna.
He also says that although there are seats reserved for senior citizens in public transport, especially the buses, most people don’t get up to give their seats to the older folk.
“The passengers who are sitting on the seats set apart for the elders don’t volunteer to get up, unless they are asked to do so,” he adds.
Most senior citizens like Saraswati Rao, a resident of Malleswaram, says the facilities at bus stands and railway stations aren’t enough. Saraswati points out that the escalators in railway stations don’t work most of the time and senior citizens are forced to climb the stairs. “My husband and I are both over 70 years and we were travelling alone last week.
We had to climb the stairs at the City Railway Station because the escalator wasn’t working and we had a lot of luggage with us. The porters too charge an unreasonable amount for carrying the luggage,” she says. She also feels separate counters for senior citizens at railways stations, bus stands and Metro stations would help.
The poor infrastructure is not only attributed to bureaucratic inefficiency but also the indifference among the general public.
Vice Admiral PJ Jacob, director Dua Consulting Pvt Ltd in Ulsoor, feels the general public also has a part in maintaining the infrastructure of the city. “The city does not have proper footpaths and the traffic is ever increasing making it impossible for people to reach their destination on time. It is not only poor infrastructure, indifference among people and the lack of strong enforcement of the existing rules also add to the woes of senior citizens living in the city,” says Jacob.
Citing an example, Jacob, says that he once saw a man driving with ear phones plugged on. “I stopped him immediately and asked him to not use his ear phones when driving because it will endanger not only his own life but that of his fellow travellers. Citizen activism is the need of the hour,” he says.