One of the most affected sections of society during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent prohibitory orders that have been imposed to curb the spread of the virus are the senior citizens. Most of the elderly in Nepal spend their time visiting temples or old acquaintances as the younger members of the family are usually busy with their work or studies.
However, with movement restricted the senior citizens have been confined within the four walls of their rooms and have nothing much to do besides maybe watching television or talking to those who are still at home. Those elderly people who stay with families can also talk to those available at home and spend their time but what about the elderly who have been living in old-age homes.
Yes, there are other people in the old-age homes to have a decent conversation with but nothing beats the satisfaction that one derives from talking to one's family. Moreover, when one is restricted from meeting people or even going out for a morning or evening stroll then things start getting difficult. And when daily activities like holding religious ceremonies or participating in hymns are also halted then it seems like life has come to a standstill.
Krishna Prasad Kandel, Chief Administrative Officer of Pashupati Bridhaashram, which is a government-sponsored facility, states, "Many senior citizens living with us have started facing emotional problems due to the prohibitory orders." He adds that since they have not allowed any person to enter or leave the facility for more than a year and a half some elderly people in the old-age home have developed symptoms of depression.
"Seniors staying with us have been allowed to talk to people only through the main gate. Actually, we cannot do much also because we need to be careful that no one gets infected with the virus," shares Kandel. As it is they have been living away from their close ones and when other activities too are stopped it does affect them mentally, he adds.
"We have not faced any problem regarding the basic necessities," he mentions, adding that he is really worried about the mental well-being of the seniors.
Meanwhile, Laxmi Devi Thapa, a resident who has been living in Pashupati Bridhashram for 19 years, says, "We used to have religious ceremonies and sing hymns before but it has been completely stopped during the prohibitory order. But we have had small celebrations in the temple that is located inside our facility on occasions like Teej and Dashain."
She adds that they are fortunate to have a television and radio in the old-age home. "At times we watch television and listen to the news on the radio," she sighs.
While speaking to some involved in the care of senior citizens who have been living in old-age homes, Sharala Panthi, founder of Himalaya Old-age Home, said, "We are lucky that even during these difficult times there have been a few kind-hearted souls who have been donating the basic necessities that we require."
Whatever small help that we receive from individuals during their birthdays or marriage anniversaries actually turns out to be a big one for us cumulatively and we are thankful to everyone for that, says Panthi. "The only problem we face is managing the expenses during the funeral rites when somebody living with us passes away."
One aspect she laments about is the seniors living in old-age homes missing out on the vaccines for the COVID-19. "The government should prioritize facilities like ours and in fact, vaccines should be administered to the seniors here itself because we are talking about old people who cannot stand in queues for hours," Panthi states.
She adds that they are doing their best to keep the senior citizens safe from the virus and are also making do with home remedies so that no one catches a cold or a fever that could further complicate the health condition of the old-age people.
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