RDS_190714 Mumbai police old lady-1563113140386
Image Credit: Twitter/@MumbaiPolice

Mumbai police arrived unannounced at this 77-year-old’s doorstep Saturday morning. And, no they were not there to arrest her. Instead, they had a cream frosted cake.

Why? Well, Kumud Joshi, the septuagenarian lives alone in Khar, a suburb of India’s economic capital in Maharashtra. And the officers showed up at her doorstep with a cake to celebrate her birthday on July 14. They wanted to make sure that Kumud didn’t feel lonely on her special day.

On July 14, they tweeted pictures from the celebration: “77-year-old Kumud Joshi ji lives alone in Khar but officials of Khar police station make sure she’s never lonely! We tried to make her birthday special, you can send in your wishes too with #HBDKumudJi and we will make sure each wish reaches her.”

Twitter users quickly shared the tweet.

Like many others, tweep @AapMirkar posted: “Heart touching just love you Mumbai Police.”

However, the Twitter thread also started another important conversation — India’s lonely elderly.

Loneliness among India’s elderly

In 2018, based on a survey of 10,000 elderly people across 20 states, Delhi-based NGO Agewell Foundation found that almost every fourth elderly (23.44 per cent of the respondents) was living alone in the country.

Agewell Foundation’s 2017 study titled Changing Needs and Rights of Older People in India surveyed 15,000 older people found that 47.49 per cent elderly people in India suffered from loneliness. The condition was worse in urban regions with 3,205 elderly people out of 5,000 feeling lonely.

There were 103 million Indians aged over 60 in India, according to the 2011 Census, and this figure is expected to hit 143 million by 2021.

While many of these senior citizens are cared for by their families, the country’s rapid urbanisation and economic development have made this harder to sustain. Millions of younger Indians have migrated to new cities for education or in search of jobs, leaving behind their older family members.

Tweep @vizu56 posted: “Show some love to the elderly. One in two is lonely in India.”

A new trend

In a country where children have traditionally been expected to take care of the elderly, a new trend has emerged. India’s elderly are slowly turning to professional help to cope with the loneliness and difficulties of old age.

An article on Indian news website Quartz (qz.com) stated that new startups were now offering paid companions to the elderly to “help with everything from daily chores, like buying groceries, and visiting the doctor, to mundane things, such as reading the newspaper or having a conversation”.

Many Indian professionals living overseas are hiring helpers to care for their aged parents

Twitter user @pratihar_vibhu posted: “Senior citizens are like treasures for our community, it’s our prime duty to look after them. Kudos to Mumbai Police.”

Pointing out the safety of the elderly living alone, tweep @sh1vs1ngh posted: “Good. So many elderly couples live alone who become victims of loot/murder crimes time to time. Police must keep a list of such people and keep visiting them periodically.”