Pathanamthitta: The rapid increase in the number of residents in Kerala's old-age homes in recent times tells a sordid tale of neglect by families in their twilight years.
In family after family, the story is almost the same. An elderly woman languishing in a government-run old-age home at Poojapura in Thiruvananthapuram has seven children who are quite well-off. Records show that many of the inhabitants of such shelters who face the prospect of a lonely death have four or more children.
Of late, cities in Kerala have witnessed mushrooming of old-age homes. The trend has spread to the villages as well.
Over the last five years, the number of inmates in old-age homes across Kerala has risen from about 15,000 to 23,823. That include 9,596 women and 14,227 men. Most of them are blessed with children, but are forced to live without the warmth and joy of family life.
The number of old-age homes in Kerala that are managed by the state government and institutions registered under the Board of Control for Orphanages and other Charitable Homes has increased to 631 from 520 five years ago. That means as many as 111 new shelters have been established during the period under review.
At the government-run 16 institutions, there are as many as 834 inmates. Among them, a majority have two or more children. The remaining 23,000 stay at 615 old-age homes run by charitable organisations registered with the Orphanage Control Board and working in the area of senior citizen welfare.
The figures are based on data provided by institutions operated with the government’s permission. According to officials, there could be hundreds of senior citizens staying at care centres owned and managed by private organisations across the state that do not maintain proper records on admission or release.
A monthly assistance of Rs 2,000 is being provided to each person in government-financed old-age homes, whereas occupants of 222 care homes affiliated to the Orphanage Control Board receive a monthly grant of Rs 1,100 each.
In total, there are 22 old-age homes in the state that take senior citizens on payment. These centres house as many as 180 persons. Parents from rich families turn to old age homes because their children are abroad or in another city and they have no one to look after them.
As for the rules are concerned, senior citizens who have children would not be admitted to the 16 government-run old-age homes, but their uncaring offspring make up lies and find it all too convenient a way to dump their ageing parents there and move on.
There were several instances of parents being shifted to government-financed care centres by making them believe that they are paid institutions owned by their acquaintances, said caretakers of an old-age home. “There are many who have never turned up after leaving their parents here,” he added.
District-wise, Ernakulum has the maximum number of shelters for elders in the state. The district has 125 old-age homes with as many as 4,097 residents. In Thrissur, there are 95 institutions with 2,915 occupants, while Kottayam’s 83 shelters house 3,199 persons. They are followed by Thiruvananthapuram (51 centres and 1,304 inmates) and Pathanamthitta (37 centres and 969 inmates).