Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Senior citizens shake a leg to spend free time

Gone are the days when the elderly spent time by taking a walk or playing cards. For the 59-year-old Ehsaan Qureshi and his wife Mehraam, gaming parlours were places where their children frequented. Today, the retired banker spends his evenings with his better half at the nearest entertainment centre in a multiplex trying his hand in “bumper cars” and “an electronic racing game.

Qureshi is not alone. Gone are the days when grannies and grandpas spent their evenings taking a walk in a park or playing bridge with their cronies.

It is more likely that you would find them gliding on a dance floor or manoeuvring gaming equipment at the nearest multiplex. “I would recommend salsa or ballroom dancing for every couple that wants to pursue an activity together,” beams the 54-year-old Mumbai-based Jagjeevan Pathare, who, along with his wife, joined a salsa training class in the evening.

“I read about the salsa classes on the notice board of our community centre and asked my wife to accompany me to the initial sessions,” he says. The Pathares are now hooked to dancing and having discovered the charm of salsa they are now planning to enrol in ballroom dancing too.

Mihir Shah, a professional Salsa trainer, admits that there has been a rise in the number of elderly taking up dancing as a serious hobby. He says, “It helps them in socialising and also provides easy exercise. Some enthusiasts even enter ballroom and salsa dance competitions.”

According to a report by HelpAge India, India is home to over 80 million elderly. The figure is expected to increase to 177 million by 2025. Arguably, this is a new market waiting to be tapped. Nandan Piramal, executive vice-chairman, Piramyd Retail, says they have launched their sixth family entertainment centre —Jammin — that is aimed at senior members in the family.

“We are targeting grown-ups and senior members in a family with our entertainment centres. For this, we have kept the whole look and feel of the games a little mature,” he adds. Piramal is looking at launching six more family entertainment centres, primarily in west and north India. He says, “We expect to garner 20 per cent growth per store and will have professional gaming experts to help players.”

The Oxford Institute of Ageing estimates that in India people over 60 give over 1.3 billion voluntary hours per year, worth around Rs 15.8 billion, to the economy. Minoo Shroff, a retired professor, spends close to Rs 500 each weekend, trying her hand at the local bowling alley along with a group of like-minded seniors.

“I don't expect my NRI son or my daughter to look after me,” she says confidently, adding, “I am independent, they are independent.” Shroff and her buddies carefully plan their weekends in advance, allocating money to various outdoor activities, from gaming to yoga classes.

Shroff's neighbour in Navi Mumbai, the 60-year-old Uma Paranjpe, has been practicing tai chi and now takes classes for the elderly. “It's an alternative to a more dynamic workout.

Similar to martial arts, such as karate, the movements of tai chi are rooted in a warrior stance. However, like yoga, tai chi combines the concentration of breath and movement to encourage the body to increase efficiency and relieve the mind of stress.”

Looks like some people never retire; they just change careers.

By Priyanka Joshi


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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