Senior citizens are more vulnerable and face specific challenges during the COVID-19 lockdown. In this series, some seniors discuss how they’ve been dealing with the situation. In the first part of the series, a senior citizen describes the new challenges that have descended on her.
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While the media has focused on the woes of migrant workers trekking hundreds of kilometres to return to their native villages after their earnings dried up in the wake of the virus pandemic, not much has been written or said about the hassles that middle-class families have had to face, especially the elderly.
Take me. I am a middle-class senior citizen with a sick husband, living in Sanjaynagar on a pension. We are both past 80, and housebound. We have no neighbours as our apartment is the only one on the top floor of our building.
Gap between reality and politicians’ rhetoric
A part-time domestic worker used to come in for sweeping and cleaning, and a part-time cook used to come in thrice a week. Now both have stopped coming due to the lockdown rules. They still have to be paid, even if I do all the work. I can manage. But what irks me is the gap between politicians’ rhetoric and our reality.
“There are no shortages,” declares the home minister. But the nearby store had no rice, no salt, biscuits, vegetables or even toothpaste, and venturing farther was risky as the police in our area were aggressively enforcing lockdown, especially for elders. The bakery was closed for some days; “no worker turned up,” the owner said.
BBMP announced “home delivery of essentials”, but there were neither guidelines nor full information. Phone calls and emails went unanswered. And we do not qualify for the Garib Kalyan package announced by the finance minister.
Millions of middle-class elderly citizens like us fall between the cracks. A three-month relief of Rs 1,000 per month was announced for senior citizens, but the middle-class pensioner does not qualify. Does anyone care? Is financial destitution the only criterion?
Difficulty paying bills and taxes
I had to pay my electricity, water and telephone bills, but the Bangalore One kiosks, I was told, were closed. Paying online was not an option as I don’t have a credit card. There were no announcements in the media about utilities extending last dates for payment. I cannot run around seeking help or visiting various offices.
Property tax has to be paid to the BBMP this month, but they have not announced any extensions either. As pensioners, we cannot afford to pay penalties for late payment or default. For the elderly, this adds a dimension of harassment.
Effects on mental health
The restrictions on socialising means we are deprived of the periodic neighbourhood meetings of senior citizens which provided much-needed diversion and company. Isolation is also a kind of punishment. Libraries and walks in the nearby park kept us healthy and engaged. With all those restricted, mental health suffers.
I used to spend a couple of happy, productive hours every evening giving tuitions to a girl from a homeless migrant family; that too had to stop. TV is full of reports on the virus, whichever channel one turns to. And there is only so much television one can watch, whether young or old.
Better off than many, but problems remain
True, we are not as badly off as the unemployed and destitute. But we too have problems which are not seen as legitimate or important enough for attention, despite the promises and allocations that the administration makes.
Lakhs are being spent by politicians, in printing party leaders’ photographs on packets of food distributed free, for instance. (And no one questions these unethical and frivolous expenditures at a time of a horrendous health emergency.) So it is not a question of lack of resources or money, but of lack of honesty, sincerity and reliability.[Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the individual writer(s) and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.]