ARTH has helped create community support groups for older persons, which have been named Buzurg Milan Samooh. These are groups consisting of older persons in a specific hamlet of the village, aged 50 years and above. The thought behind creating such groups is that several older persons in rural areas face increasing loneliness and isolation as their mobility becomes restricted, families turn nuclear and resources to travel and meet decline. The group serves as a platform for them to meet and socialize, to share problems or common issues and to seek support from similar others in working out a solution.
It also enables ARTH to share and better deliver preventive health care and nutrition interventions, to link older persons to its primary health care camps and clinics, and to support referral for investigations and specialised treatment in the city, should that become necessary.
Each of these meetings is conducted once a month and is facilitated by ARTH’s field staff. In the 1st meeting, most people are quiet and reserved, as they are not sure what the meeting is about. Field staff present in the meeting explains to them the reason for organising it, while also pushing them to speak and express themselves. By the 3rd meeting of the group, people express themselves a lot better and have discussions on various topics – their daily lives, how things were before when they were young, their eating habits, etc. They are also encouraged to sing songs and tell stories, the main goal being that by the end of the meeting they feel happier and socially closer to each other.
Currently, 109 older persons’ support groups have been created in 8 blocks of southern Rajasthan and their experience is being monitored. Issues like old age and widow pensions, health problems and the availability of subsidised grain have already come up during conversations. Problems related to sustaining health, nutrition and wellness (a significant proportion of older persons are undernourished) and digital access to pensions are numerous, but a beginning has been made and older persons now have a group to belong to.