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Monday, 25 March 2013

No public amenities for the elderly

The Millennium City is all about youth and energy, pubs and fast cars. So it seems. And, what do the elderly population of this bustling satellite city do? Understandably nothing, since there are very little civic amenities available for the elderly in the city, whether it's the roads, or the transport options or the entry-exit points at government offices.

For starters, the volume and speed of the unregulated road traffic poses as a major hindrance for the elderly, both as pedestrians and as drivers.

"Motorists will have to learn to respect the presence of the elderly on the road. With age, the elderly have problems of diminishing vision, including ailments like cataract. Hence, high-beam driving at night must be strictly discouraged since bright light from oncoming vehicles easily hampers visibility, especially for the older people. The police must enforce laws strictly so that the elderly do not find it difficult to cross roads or drive around," said T N Ahuja, senior ophthalmologist and president, Niramaya Charitable Trust.

Similarly, when they are approached by the elderly with grievances, there is a need for Gurgaon's administrators to be especially sensitive and responsive to the elderly. Experts also feel administrators at government offices can easily minimize the visits of the elderly by giving them priority and by responding to the elderly as quickly as possible.

"This is a city which has great plans and dreams but those which are seldom executed. Officials are least interested to act and hence most of these plans become a part of files which are gathering dust in most government offices," said Mangat Ram Bagri, councillor, ward 10.

According to experts and activists, civic infrastructure in a modern city is never complete until it takes into account the concerns of the minority groups - women, the physically and the mentally-challenged and the elderly, among others. Public spaces, including public transport, should be accessible to everyone, including the old and the handicap.

Low-floor, wide-door buses, recreation and reading rooms dedicated to the elderly, doorstep public services on demand, people-friendly and prompt policing are some essential measures that a city must adopt, say concerned citizens. Unfortunately, Gurgaon lacks most of these basic amenities.

"This town is worst than a village with unmanageable traffic, rowdy auto and rickshaw drivers and dormant officials. It takes me close to one-hour-and-10-minute to maneuver my way from M G Road to Windsor Palace, a drive which should not take more than 10 minutes. There are committees being constituted every day but nothing seems to come through," said S K Dutta, former general secretary, Senior Citizen Council.

According to activists, a good starting point for this kind of change can be the active senior citizen forums in Gurgaon, who can initiate focused group discussions to identify the problems faced by the senior citizens, identify elderly-friendly features in the city, and list down everything that can improve the quality of life of the people in their evening years.

These efforts should be supported by the administration, say experts.

The Elderly In Public Spaces


Unlike the fleet of pink autos available for women, there is no special transport option available for the elderly in Gurgaon. For commuting, senior citizens have either the shared autos driven rashly from point to point or autos on call and commercially run autos.

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