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(From left) Seniors Rajni Shah, Ashok Doshi, Prakash Sheth, Sandeep Shishodia, Nilesh Vadhani and Rupesh Mehta Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: An Indian expat living in Dubai has started a community initiative for the social well-being of senior citizens.

‘Rishtey’, started by Sandeep Shishodia, 48, President of Jain Seva Mission and a businessman in Dubai, aims to build relationships. Shishodia’s initiative is completely non-profit, he said.

“Senior citizens like to be heard, and we want to lend them our ears. The Jain Seva Mission is coming together to have their voice heard. Many at their age feel lonely. They miss meeting people of their age group. The reason we started this group was to bring a positive difference to their lives.”

Shishodia said so far the initiative is limited to the Jain Seva Mission members who comprise 4,000 people. “Of this, 150 are senior citizens. We hope to start this concept within our community. We will then extend this to other communities.”

He said: “Rishtey is based on LOVE – L for listening, lending any help, O for outdoor activities, V for vacation, vitalise, add vigour by exercise and wellness events and volunteering, while E stands for empowering them with skills and education,” explained Shishodia.

Rupesh Mehta, 46, treasurer for the Jain Seva Mission, said the initiative is a way to give back to the elders. “They spent so much of their lifetime looking after us. The least we can do is spend a little quality time with them understanding their issues and concerns.”

Mehta said as a first, the community has made plans to have Karoeke nights, staycations, vacations and date nights with the parents. “By date nights we mean that the senior citizens (couples) will dine out with a friend’s children. We think this is a great way of bonding and showing love to our community.”

Mehta also said there will be programmes to upskill the senior citizens whether it be offering them free courses in Powerpoint, Excel, or any other training they may need. “All these planned activities will be exclusively free and sponsored by the younger generation for the benefit of our elders.”

Ashok Doshi, a committee member of the mission, who offered his farmhouse in Ras Al Khaimah for activities like meditation and socialising, said, “It was a great time bonding with seniors. The third generation of the community also had a chance to listen to old stories from our senior citizens on their life journey, how they came to the UAE and what life was like in the early years. The children were mesmerised and truly fascinated. It was a great exchange of information.”

Rajni Shah, 72, could not agree more. “The mission and its younger members are doing much for our benefit. People of my age have much to share in terms of our experiences our life. We are so happy that such an initiative has been taken. I personally have lived in the UAE for decades. This is my home. Back in India, we know our neighbours really well. Here the JSM community has filled any void. Every weekend, we look forward to some intellectual conversations with young minds. Not just, that the activities and entertainment breaks any barriers and increases our social skills.”

Prakash Sheth, 70, a businessman in Dubai who lost his wife, said Rishtey has opened many doors for him. “Loneliness can set in especially if you are old and single. Rishtey has helped me a lot. I have a loving community of youngsters who show me the love and give me all the respect. I feel blessed. I will be participating in all the activities planned for senior citizens. It is a great feeling to be noticed and be loved in one’s old age.”

Nilesh Vadhani, 72, another businessman, said, “My children are away. They don’t live in the UAE. With Rishtey, my wife and I have met many new sons and daughters.”