Rain or shine

As I write this, the rains are lashing the city of Mumbai with ferocity for the second time in less than a month. While many of the city’s residents—and authorities—appear a little better prepared this time round, the trauma of such events remains acute for silvers living alone.

For anyone, nature is a deadly foe when she unleashes her fury, hard to confront and almost impossible to prevail over. For silvers, the battle is even harder. Often isolated from family and community, suffering from mobility and health issues, and lacking the digital skills to keep updated on the latest weather reports as well as letting their loved ones know their location and level of danger, they are among the most vulnerable.

This is not a phenomenon unique to India. It is hurricane season in the US right now with storms like Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria making the headlines. And every informed, post-event analysis invariably mentions the people hardest hit: the poor and the elderly.

While immediate worries for silvers during natural disasters can include lack of access to food, increased risk of dehydration, missed medications, and confusion and disorientation owing to loss of power, the long-term consequences can be surprisingly harder. In fact, a study conducted among the elderly survivors of the 2011 tsunami in Japan revealed that those who were subjected to intense trauma, especially destruction of assets and property, were more likely to experience cognitive decline, leading to dementia.

It is clear that elders need comprehensive support mechanisms during natural disasters. And, sadly, it is even more evident that our country does not have them for anyone—let alone silvers. In the absence of institutional mechanisms, then, we need to be more proactive about our safety; get connected to the larger community, digitally and socially; and, as an American disaster management manual advises, ‘Make Yourself Known’.

It’s a crucial and timely lesson. On 1 October, the world celebrates the International Day of Older Persons. In fact, the UN’s theme for this year is something that finds deep resonance with all that we say and do at Harmony: ‘Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society.’ However, while we continue to work towards these lofty goals, let us first take care of the basics. Stay informed, stay connected, stay safe—the rest will follow.

By Tina Ambani

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
October 2017