May 10, 2010

INDIA: Seniors in Mumbai can now call 1298 for legal, financial, medical problems

MUMBAI, Maharashtra / The Hindustan Times / Lifestyle / May 10, 2010

By Dhamini Ratnam, Hindustan Times

Senior citizens have a reason to smile.

Prominent city NGOs and welfare services have come together to launch a 24-hour helpline, 1298, which starting Monday will help elderly persons tackle their legal, medical and financial problems.

The helpline, which already provides assistance to women and ambulance services, will now extend their services to elderly citizens as well. Two counsellors will also be available round the clock on the helpline.

The Mumbai Police Elder helpline and Ambulance Access for All Foundation have teamed up with 10 NGOs working for senior citizens, including Silver Innings Foundation and HelpAge India to provide a referral and a counselling service to the 1.5 million senior citizen in the city.

“Often, senior citizens don’t know whom to approach when they have a problem. Now, by dialing 1298 from either their landline number or their cellphone, they can avail of a directory of NGOs who can help them on a variety of issues,” said Shailesh Mishra, founder and president of Silver Innings Foundation.

For instance, if they want to know more about Alzheimer’s disease, the helpline will refer them to the correct NGO. Or if it is a case of physical or mental abuse, they can speak to a counsellor. If they wish, they can be directly transferred to the police elder helpline too, Mishra said.

“Our vision is to get all the NGOs working with senior citizens under one roof. They need to know that they are not alone and shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help, even if it’s just advice they’re seeking,” said Member of Parliament, Priya Dutt, a trustee of the Nargis Dutt Memorial Charitable Trust, which is funding the helpline.

“We are also creating a directory of resources, so that the elderly don’t have to be dependent on anyone,” said Mishra.

Information on yoga centres, dabba services, and mobility aids will be made available within the next three months. At present the helpline will provide information on day-care centres, legal and financial matters and the Right to Information Act.

“The needs of the elderly are different from those of other ages, so a helpline is urgently needed,” said Nasreen Rustomfram, dean, student affairs, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who teaches a course on gerontology.

The helpline 1298 already provides assistance to women and ambulance services. [rc]

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