Today, we mark the International Day of Older Persons. This day was observed for the first time in 1991. Globally, the day is marked by raising awareness about issues affecting the elderly.
In Mumbai, there are a number of programmes being held in honour of this day. Many NGOs that work for senior citizens are holding walks, talks and seminars, including fun meetings, to observe the day in some way.
While some may dismiss these as token gestures, one can take heart from the fact that the Elders Day is at least on the city’s radar. This is a leap from a few years earlier, when it was not observed in any way.
Having said that, we must make this city more senior-friendly, to coin a new phrase. Currently, our infrastructure, which includes public commuting systems, does not make life easy for seniors.
Our roads are a challenge to most, but more so for older persons, who have a tough time negotiating broken footpaths, loose paver blocks and at times, open manholes. Some seniors have stopped going out of the house if they do not have anybody to accompany them because they simply cannot cross the roads or even walk on the pavements. This has resulted in an entire demographic with restricted mobility.
Our public transport has to factor in older persons. BEST buses have seats reserved for the elderly, but stations, with their stairs and bridges, are still a hard climb for the elderly. In some facilities, we have seen that there are separate queues for senior citizens or they are given priority. Yet, we need more choices in the availability of facilities for the elderly.
Let us make this city a more inclusive one for all sections of society, including its senior citizens, who have contributed hugely in different ways.
There are several private organisations that work for the elderly; we see more ‘homes for the aged’ than there were before, but the old also need to be factored in while constructing public facilities. Let them feel like valued and worthwhile citizens of Mumbai.