Can Elder’s Club provide for inclusive development of Indian society?

An Elders Club was set up in Jamtara, Jharkhand.

In India, the elder’s club will serve many purposes. It would enable old persons of the community to learn livelihood as well as gain social skills, with the mission to improve the quality of life for everyone—and at the same time contribute their resourceful knowledge for the betterment of harmonious society.

Md Tabrez Alam & Md Afroz | 

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Ageing is a natural course of development and increasing longevity is a wonderful human achievement. An active secure and healthy ageing population can present an enormous contribution to society. This demographic shift has opportunities with challenges where ageing require lots of resourceful support while it has a resounding contribution to the family and society. Elders are like banyan trees that provide shelter and give equal opportunity for everyone to grow. Despite so much socio-economic crisis in the country, the Indian family system is surviving because of elders who have glued it together. Therefore, elders are a blessing to society. Active ageing policies and programmes are needed to allow people to continue working according to their capacities and preferences as they grow older and must have choices at all stages of life. 

“Elders are not only liabilities, they are assets. A Banyan tree not only survives but shelters many under it shadow to grow harmoniously” 

Developing elderhood
In India, at least 103.8 million, 8.6% population is of senior citizens according to the 2011 Census. It is likely to grow 13% in the 2021 Census. There is strong concern among senior citizens, like “What to do now” and what is the purpose of life. People get sufficient time post-retirement to take up or rekindle their socio-cultural engagement to attain old age gracefully. Unfortunately, very few get such chances and this has been highlighted by many kinds of research. Elder people should have a mental, physical engagement to lead good health. Their engagement ranges from reading, writing, music, dance, yoga and social interaction must be included as a way to de-stress and lead a more active life. That can only be possible by joining a centre or senior club that facilitate such space where they socialize and engage in constructive activities. The purpose of this idea is to be inclusive and create a more coherent environment in life and society—so that no one is left behind.

Why think about ageing?
Can one think and envision oneself in the future when the work and activities that kept you busy are gone? It is a daunting question that haunts most senior citizens. In old age, people go through difficult phases of their lives, as they lack many aspects like not being physically fit, becoming alone, and feeling useless and neglected by family and society. Therefore, it is crucial to have recreational centres and programmes to help them find comradeship and support in their older age. In the urban setup, there are many recreational clubs established by different NGOs to offer game nights, excursions, dancing and singing sessions, etc. One of the best organisations, Help Age India, also does similar work and offers them a healthy environment and also helps bridge the gap between generations. 

What is Elder’s Club?
Elder’s Club is a semi home for old-age persons. It is an instructional & recreational program designed to improve the quality of life through social inclusion. It is an attempt to improve older people’s mental and social well-being. The senior citizens of the Elder’s Club primarily belong to six blocks of Jamtara, a remotely backward district of Jharkhand; namely Nala, Fathepur, Jamtara, Narayanpur, Karmatand, and Kundhit. It has a diverse population in terms of caste and linguistics and is primarily tribal (30.4 per cent) dominated. The major language spoken is Bengali 30%, Santhali 29% Khortha 27%, Hindi 6% and Urdu 3% respectively (Census 2011). The poor public and private infrastructure limit the development course. Education is the most viable durable source of emancipation from all misery. DC Faiz Ahmed Mumtaz has taken the initiative after successfully implementing a community library in 118 Panchayat of Jamtara. It has been well appreciated and welcomed by all sections of society. 

The initiative
The idea struck after coming across instances of depression among certain older people due to various social issues. There was a teacher who used to reach students even after retirement. After his wife passed away, he went into depression and wanted to die. Many such cases came to the notice of district administration and these old people were counselled. The idea was why not provide an opportunity to the poor and older people so as they live a dignified social life. The district administration of Jamtara decided to use the existing infrastructure to set up elder’s clubs or recreational centres for the senior citizens at the block level with minimum expenditure, and these centres are running in all six blocks of Jamtara. Extra effort has been made to utilise old structures in the block offices. It formalised into reality by setting up such elders club at the block level and a committee was formed with a Block Development Officer as the ex-officio secretary to ensure proper monitoring. It has overwhelmingly been welcomed by locals. One old person Nakul Mandal from Jamtara said that “Kahiyo Na Sochle Haliye Babu Ki Humniyon Khatil Is Sab Bante U Bhi E Dehatiya Me, DC sir Badi Bes Kam Karo Hathin,” (Never thought that DC would build such a club for older people in the village. He is doing very good.)” Another person said that it would make older people more active. “I feel happy to be associated with this club,” he said. 

The motive of the initiative is to motivate senior citizens to engage socially and find a path of the solution themselves. 

The way forward
Elder’s club will serve many purposes. It would enable old persons of the community to learn livelihood as well as gain social skills, with the mission to improve the quality of life for everyone—and at the same time contribute their resourceful knowledge for the betterment of harmonious society. Any vision that meets reality rarely gets institutionalised support of the state and cooperation of civil society. Therefore, to carry forward this visionary mission needs a strong patronisation of the state as well political will to build an inclusive society. 


MD Tabrez Alam is a doctoral scholar at the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi. He tweets at @ktabrezshams.

Dr Md Afroz teaches Political Science & Public Administration at MANUU. 

He tweets at @khwajaAfrozSidd.