May 17, 2010

INDIA: Part of family, pets cheer lonely, retired

PUNE, Maharashtra / The Indian Express / People / May 17, 2010

By Garima Mishra

Even after retirement, the life of 65-year-old professor Vasant Wagh is buzzing with activity. Topsy, an eight-year-old cross-breed Pomeranian, keeps Wagh and his wife on their toes all the time. The couple doesn’t mind attending to its needs. In fact, Topsy has helped them combat with loneliness after their son and daughter settled down in the US.

“Having a pet at home at this age keeps you mentally and physically active throughout the day. My wife and I are so busy with Topsy that we don’t realise how the day passes.

There is so much to do — morning walk, evening walk, taking care of her food, appointments with the vet and so on,” says Wagh.

In the pensioner’s paradise, retired residents whose children have left the city have found a way to combat with problems of loneliness. A number of senior citizens are buying pets to give them company.

Neha Tiwari. owner of N R Pet Junction, a city-based firm that deals with sale of pups, says that 40 per cent of her clients are either single or elderly couples. She adds that she has sold dogs to about 20 elderly couples in the past six months

“The trend is more about extending the family rather than combating with loneliness,” she said. Seventy-one- year-old Vasundhara Latkar and her husband couldn’t agree more.

Their parrot Bunny, whom they got home just a month ago, is no less than a member of the family. Vasundhara said that she had found a new companion in Bunny with whom she could talk when her husband was not around.

“Ever since Bunny has joined us, there is so much activity in the house. He keeps us engaged all the time. Even while I am cutting vegetables, he keeps shouting for a bite,” she says.

For 67-year-old Prakash Sanadi and his wife Geeta, their pet dog Ruff has been a companion for the past 15 years with their only child staying away from home. With the increasing incidence of crimes in urban areas, the dog gives them a sense of security.

According to psychiatrist Dr Ulhas Luktuke, elderly couples face isolation with the concept of the nuclear family catching up in cities. Senior citizens share a relationship of mutual affection with their pets that makes up for the lack of familial relationships to some extent.

“Having a pet is a great idea because it has a positive effect on the well-being of senior citizens,” he said.

© 2010 The Indian Express Limited