A ray of hope for senior citizens, crematorium workers during Covid

Varalika Mishra

The current pandemic has severely impacted humanity but unfortunately senior citizens have been severely affected. Risk factors such as loneliness due to loss of spouse, social and financial insecurity, limited support from families, inadequate nutrition, uncontrolled hypertension, impaired vision, and several other issues make elderly vulnerable to mental illness. An inverse relationship between psychological stress and parameters of the immune system makes the elderly more susceptible to viral infections. The elderly are emotionally vulnerable and even a seasonal flu brings them immense stress and anxiety worsening their existent morbidities. In addition to this, the current COVID-19 pandemic has imposed more challenges such as non-availability of house-help to assist in daily chores, difficulty as well as fear in accessing health-care facilities, loneliness due to lockdown, stigma in the family and society, elder abuse, and abandonment, alongside various other issues.

Besides senior citizens, mental health of crematorium workers are also deteriorating. Experiencing death on a daily basis has led to an increase of mental health issues amongst crematorium workers which is not getting highlighted. The unseen warriors are experiencing immense stress and require immediate help in terms of basic care facilities like food and support groups, alongside professional help in terms of counselling.

Amidst such difficult times, “Kitchen for Senior Citizens”, an initiative started by a group of old students ( Pratima Mittal, Sid Mewara, Daksha Jaidka, Ruhani Bhasin, Jahnvi Sharma and Virender Bhikuramram) from Modern School, Barakhamba road, New Delhi in collaboration with Caption G’s burger company and  The Big Forkers decided to take action for senior citizens who were suffering from Covid. They have been providing free healthy home-style cooked meals to senior citizens suffering from the Covid in Delhi/NCR. Ashwin Venkataraman and Karan Nambiar, partners of Caption G burger company have made their services available for senior citizens and crematorium workers by providing freshly cooked meals on a daily basis. Over 4000 meals have been distributed within a span of 20 days.

In addition, they have also delivered over 1000 meals to frontline workers including crematorium & burial ground workers, hospital staff & delivery personnels such as riders of zomato and swiggy. Such initiatives have certainly become a beacon of hope for senior citizens and crematorium workers who have been suffering behind the scene.

India’s suicide mortality rate has been the highest in the world, reporting about 381 suicides daily in 2019, according to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau. In 2017, over 197 million people in India had a diagnosed mental disorder out of a population of 1.3 billion. This included 45.7 million people with depressive disorders and 44.9 million with anxiety disorders, according to a study published in medical journal, the Lancet. “There has been an increase of over 50% among senior citizens when it comes to mental health disorders,” India-based non-governmental organization Agewell Foundation for elderly people has suggested.  This included: “anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, depression as well as weakness and fatigue.” The organization held conversations with around 5,000 elderly people in India in April. Of these, around 63% reported developing symptoms of depression. During such challenging times, it is imperative to initiate services which cater to the needs of senior citizens.