Give The Elderly Their Space

Give the elderly their space

Radha Prathi

easy & smooth Architects and interior designers have come up with some brilliant ideas to cater to the needs of senior citizens.

Long, long ago, in ancient India, when people grew older, they took up Vanaprastha. The elders would go away to live in the forest by themselves and spend their time in spiritual pursuits. When living in civilised societies became the order of the day, the members of an extended joint family shared the responsibility of caring for the elders in the family. With industrialisation, India urbanised in a big way and paved way to nuclear families.

Over a period of time, the young population has been finding it increasingly
challenging to take care of its senior family members at home. Nevertheless, the need to protect our elders and to be there for them when they need us has not changed.

Architects and interior designers have come up with some brilliant ideas to cater to the needs of senior citizens. Although some of us may have introduced one or two of the elderly-friendly features, it will be a jolly good idea to incorporate them all at least in one room of the house. After all, everyone of us has to go through the norm of getting old and feeble at some point in the future. Here is a list of features that can be introduced in your homes, elder care centres and geriatric wards in hospitals and nursing homes:

The first step forward would be to hire a creative carpenter, electrician, plumber and a good mason to make some necessary and useful alterations. A fairly large room with an attached bathroom can be allocated for the purpose. It will be ideal if windows and doors are situated either in the east or west, if not on both sides. This measure can ensure natural and healthy ventilation and lighting. Fix mosquito nets for all the windows and ventilators.

Having staircases, steps or threshold within the house should be avoided as far as possible, to facilitate free movement. It will be a good idea to make provision for a lift or a wheelchair-friendly ramp instead of stairs, to prevent this problem. A lovely carpet along the incline can prove to be a boon to everyone in the home. The toddlers, if any, around the home will also find it a lot easier to move around without the fear of tripping.

Moreover, moving furniture and other heavy objects around the house will become a cakewalk. If you think that it is a tall order, then at least make it a point to remove the steps or threshold of the assigned premises and make it easier for the resident. Fix door knob grippers for all doors, including that of cupboards and lockers. They are user-friendly and can be operated without strain. These grippers, if stained or soiled, can be washed clean and left gleaming.

If you are renovating existing premises, check the wiring and rewire the room if necessary. This step can help prevent accidents. Bring down the height of the switch box (which houses the switches and plug points) so that it can be operable even while sitting on a wheel chair or crouching over a walking stick.

Fix glow tapes on all switches to enable night vision. Make sure that emergency calling systems or bells are fixed on all the switchboards, which when used can be heard in all rooms of the house. One such bell can be fixed along the bedstead for increased convenience.

The latest trend happens to be the tablet-enabled services calling and video calling system, which can help the distressed call for help during times of emergency. A little protruding rectangular plank of wood along the bottom of the switchboard can make it a charging station for electronic gadgets.

Being practical
Make sure that you fix two-way switches for electrical appliances like the geyser, fan, air conditioner, computer, television, music system, among other such gadgets present in the room, so that you can shut down the device from outside the room if the person has fallen asleep while using them.

A modern method would be to fix motion sensor lights in the room and the adjoining bathroom. Introducing smart electronic remote system for all switches is another way of keeping tabs on your electricity usage — some of which may be a result of fatigue or forgetfulness. Though we have come a long way from using landline telephones and intercoms, it will not be a bad idea to install a telephone connection in all rooms to facilitate emergency calls.

Fix grab rails along the walls of the room, especially the one leading to the bathroom. Make sure that these rails do a round on the insides of the bathroom. The rails should render good grip besides being strong and reassuring. Wooden, fibre glass or plastic railings can prove to be a good choice. Try and avoid metal railings for the simple reason that they can be cold and unfriendly, especially when someone is in need of warmth and comfort. The towel rod, the soap stand, the little shelf, among other such paraphernalia, should be shifted to a lower level so that they can be reached out from the wheel chair.

Safety first
Make it a point to lay anti-skid tiles across the living and bath area. These days you get them in a plethora of materials, designs and colours. In fact, you can redo the flooring of the entire home with anti-skid tiles and save yourself a hefty hospital bill that you might incur because of your super smooth shining floors. Place anti-slip mats in wet areas to make it doubly safe.
Once the alterations in the room are done, pay attention to the bathroom. Change to anti-skid flooring, fix switch boards as suggested and fix wide doors that open on the outside to enable wheelchair movement.

If you visit a state-of-the-art shop that sells sanitaryware, it will not be difficult to find senior-friendly health faucets, shower chairs, smart toilets with seat raisers, seat warmers et al. Ensure that the grab rails go around three sides of the toilet which will give immense confidence to the user with slow reflexes.

Do not forget to fix effective electronic pest repellent in every room of your house. Once the spadework is done, give the room a fresh coat of paint. Using glow paints on the bathroom door and in corners can avoid accidents at night.

Finally, attend to the furnishing and decor of the room. It will be ideal to use much loved possessions, which bear the emotional imprints of sentiments and memories for the peace and happiness of the older residents. A collage of family pictures, a favourite music play list that can be easily accessed, a television and a magazine stand that appeals to their taste can make the elderly feel loved and honoured at home.

Sometimes small gestures like introducing an easy chair or a rocking chair — if you do not have one already — can make them feel at ease. All it takes is a little enterprise (and expense) to bring a smile on a loved one’s face. And every effort is certainly worth it.

Rise Word Wise

S Radha Prathi, October 28, 2015

Word building, scrabble and puzzles were an integral part of our mental diet.

The internet is replete with humongous amount of word games. I enjoy playing each one of them and I feel exhilarated when I complete an entire series successfully. The enriching entertainment leaves me craving for more. Recently, a youngster remarked that I could have created a record if only these games had been available to me in my student days. That set me on the path of sheer nostalgia.

We did play a whole lot of word games when we were young. The only differe-nce between the past and present is that we created our own games sometimes with the guidance of elders whereas now we get to take our pick from infinite possibilities and download them or play online. The formative years of our generation was filled with learning of many types. Reading was put at a premium. Besides, academics and conventional reading, we were also encouraged to read anything in the languages we knew.

The penchant for reading almost became an obsession with us. Needless to say, we became acutely aware of all the reading material around us, including name boards, tickets, invitation cards reservation cards, railway timetables et al. Spotting errors in spellings and syntax soon metamorphosed into a game of sorts. Scores were maintained and we were rewarded periodically.

Growing up, siblings, cousins and friends enjoyed ironing out paper covers which contained medicines or accessories and even paper cones that contained peanuts to read stories in bits and pieces. It transformed into a fun exercise because we all would spend considerable time trying to figure out what it was all about. When we could not piece it together, we spiced it up with our imagination, thus making up our own stories.

Then there were times when we would compose limericks or translate our desi film songs into English, just for the laughs. We would quiz each other on the books we read and copy down quotable quotes. This improved our language skills.

After we graduated from the first round of basic games, we solved crosswords, analysed anagrams and unravelled codes. Word building, scrabble and puzzles were an integral part of our mental diet. Some of us even created puzzles and games that were privately copied out laboriously using carbon sheets and circulated during birthday parties and get-togethers.

Medical research has discovered that playing word games can prove to be a worthwhile mental exercise and keep dementia and Alzheimer’s condition at bay. Today, these and many more games are available at the click of a button. If more and more people take to playing them while toggling with their gadgets, they will be doing a service unto themselves in more ways than one.

Your Side My Side And The Correct Side

Radha Prathi, Oct 27, 2015:

When we come across obstacles, troubles or dilemmas in life, each one of us responds to them in our own ways. An analysis of our reaction will reflect on  various factors like our upbringing, values, beliefs, time and place where the incident takes place.

Generally we tend to feel comfortable with our conscience and justified about our actions in such situations. We may prove to be right in such circumstances, nine on ten times. Yet there can be a margin of doubt about the propriety of our actions in a novel or alien atmosphere.

We could be trying to fit in round pegs in square holes out of sheer habit, which could go on to be horribly wrong. At such times, the square thing to do would be to carefully consider the concerns of the other side. It could be possible that they may also be acting in right earnest. At such times, it will be in our best interest to mend our mindset when sensitised or mentored about the new norms.

When we exercise grace and flexibility while embracing the new viewpoint and proceedings, we will invariably create a win-win situation for both the parties.

A tale from the Bhagavatha Purana lays emphasis on the necessity to observe and understand the other side of the coin and act accordingly. Uttama, the stepbrother of King Dhruva, once went to the Himalayan slopes on a hunting spree. He was killed by a Yaksha with a defensive outlook. The  fraternal affection coupled with the latent
martial attitude of a Kshatriya in Dhruva was awakened rudely.

He studied the situation and decided to avenge the unwarranted killing of Uttama. He marched with his army to the Himalayan foothills and commenced a fierce battle with the Yakshas decapitating them in tens of thousands. Swayambhu Manu, the grandfather of Dhruva, also witnessed the bloody massacre.

Though he could see that Dhruva was justified from his point of view, he saw the futility of the war. The kingdom of Yakshas was being penalised with death because one of them had blundered. Swayambhu Manu approached Dhruva in the company of likeminded sages and discussed the matter with him. Dhruva lent a patient ear to the team and imbibed the message presented to him. He called off the war and returned to his kingdom.

King Dhruva did not let his ego, power, position or reputation come in the way of understanding the validity and logic of another point of view. He gained all-round respect by acknowledging the fact that there are three ways at looking at a problem. Your side, My side and the Correct side.

Worthy Men Know The Worth Of Women

Radha Prathi, Oct 09, 2015, DHNS:

If we want to call ourselves a civilised society, we must understand that the position of women forms the cornerstone of a healthy and happy society.

It is only when she is respected as an individual and free to take her own decisions and live with dignity and grace can we hope to be called so. The Ramayana documents Ravana’s encounter with Vedavathi which speaks on the subject.

Once when Ravana was skirting around the Himalayas, he saw an exceptionally beautiful young Tapaswini. He tarried to have a conversation with her. He learned that the young lady was sage Kushadhwaja’s daughter. Many demigods sought her hand in marriage.

But, her father had wanted her to get married to Maha Vishnu. Shambhu, the demon king, who felt highly offended by the announcement, killed the young girl’s parents. Ever since, she lived an altruistic life, hoping to fulfil her father’s wish.

Ravana was very happy with the information. He tried to charm Vedavathi. When Vedavathi spurned him, he tried to violate her. The enraged maiden was aghast at the decadence of Ravana. She told him categorically that he would have to pay for his misdeed. She declared that she would be his nemesis in her next birth. Ravana grabbed her by the hair.

The damsel retaliated by cutting off her hair and immolating herself. Ravana exited from the scene remorselessly.

It is believed that Vedavathi was reborn as Sita and Ravana had to pay with his life for his ugly demeanour.

Vedavathi was no match to Ravana’s strength. Yet her goodness, dignity and resoluteness failed to impress Ravana. She had to destroy herself and garner her spiritual power to invoke retribution.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”

Every age has had its set of villains and heroes, its share of violence and injustice, if we want to break the pattern and usher in a happy new age, we must raise worthy men who know the worth of women and respect them accordingly.

Bringing Poetry Alive for Students

Radha Prathi, October 8, 2015:

The best efforts of a passionate teacher sometimes leaves a lasting impression of some verses in the minds of students, but it is common knowledge that due to time constraints, the vast syllabus and the pressure of doing well in the more 'important subjects' wean the occasional poetry lover effectively away from the realms of verse.

Over the years, poetry as an aesthetic literary and art form has become the forte of the few people who are genuinely interested in the subject. Of late, it is only the student community which gets to read poetry because it is a part of their syllabus.

Since they “study” poetry, they have been distracted from the joys of enjoying the verses as they are expected to memorise them or peruse the same with the view of answering questions on them in their examinations.

The best efforts of a passionate teacher sometimes leaves a lasting impression of some verses in the minds of students, but it is common knowledge that due to time constraints, the vast syllabus and the pressure of doing well in the more “important subjects” wean the occasional poetry lover effectively away from the realms of verse. It is indeed no wonder, that we have so few poets among our contemporaries and for that matter we do not have as many readers of poetry either.

It is indeed a matter of irony to note that the little kids who were initiated into the world of rhymes when they were tiny tots are now steadily being lead away from the same as they go to higher classes. The pleasure of reciting lines of verse from memory in a singsong way and understanding them at leisure several years later has been the exclusive personal experience of every one of us who has been through the customary educational procedure.

It is a proven fact that poetry has a way of influencing the “mind’s eye” sooner or later when one spends enough time mulling over them at leisure. The verses which work their way into our sub-conscience and have an uncanny way of popping up at times when they are least expected to do so decades after they have been learnt to clear examinations. Such is the power of poetry which has stood the test of time with its universally appealing content.

Today, the scenario has changed, technology has entered the portals of poetry writing, but it is really doubtful whether software assisted poetry writing can match the human effort as the technical version clearly lacks the human touch. The responsibility of evoking the latent poetic spirit in students squarely lies on the educational system.

It is true that our syllabus includes a few quality poems relevant to the age group to be taught in every semester but we must go beyond that. Teachers must be allowed more time to bring out the charm of the age and the work to their young audience.

Competitions in poetry writing, couplet completion, poetry appreciation, translation and recitation should be held in all languages to bring forth the dormant abilities among the budding poets in schools and colleges. The media can be roped in to showcase the bright young minds and encourage them to pursue this august fine art in a large scale at the regional or national level.

If this idea clicks, it will not be long before we find the common man discussing eclectic poetry and in bargain we can look forward to live in a more idyllic society where sensibility and sensitivity hold hands even as the dreamy-eyed smile vaguely when they reminiscence a clever verse laced with poignancy.

Poetry appreciation tips

* Many famous poems and ballads have already been set to music and sometimes have been adapted by theatre and cinema. Students can be encouraged to set music for the poems in their syllabus. Since most poetry in just about any language can be set to tune, a competition of sorts on the subject will elicit the musical quality of poems.

* Mythological, literary, historical allusions among others can be elaborated by narrating stories, which can help the poem to come alive. Watching movies, plays or slideshows on the subject can lead to better understanding.

* Classical poetry indulges in word painting. Good artists can be encouraged to illustrate the idea on hard or soft canvass. Did you know that Raja Ravi Verma drew inspiration for some of his famous paintings from the plays of Kalidasa? n Use of metaphysical wit, archaic language, figures of speech, metrical implications can be discussed with older students

Uniting to Fight the Mosquito Menace

When Namma Bengaluru metamorphosed from being the much touted Pensioner’s Paradise into a tech savvy Silicon Valley, we started paying the price. The city expanded till it burst at its seams and then grew taller by the day till it became an unwieldy giant. The leafy avenues made way for wider roads and flyovers shaving away the green cover smoothly.

Electricity and water supply have been stretched to unimaginable limits to cater albeit insufficiently to the ever growing population. The sewage and the garbage disposal system which was built once upon a time, do not know how to handle our extraneous contemporary needs. The city has just about started rectifying the infrastructure.

Simultaneously, it has also started identifying and battling new age problems like public transport, traffic jams and all kinds of pollution. More recently, the mosquito menace has descended on us.

A little analysis of the dire straits that we have landed ourselves into will sadly reveal that we have no one else to blame for the same but ourselves. The biological food chain has been cut unceremoniously by us.

The mosquitoes which happen to be the meals of many varieties of amphibians and reptiles have lost their habitat and have come down in numbers. We cannot expect Mother Nature to take care of the imbalance immediately after flouting every rule in her book. Consequently, we now live in the terror of this miniature demon in disguise.

The population of the little blood sucker has boomed beyond imagination. Gone or the days when the occasional troublemaker could be reduced into a squishy insignificant pulp with a little alertness on our part. The tiny mosquito has grown big, quite literally. The ill effects of its bite has enhanced proportionately.

These days the mosquito bite can render us quite ill, helpless and sometimes do away with our lives by manifesting as multiple ailments like malaria, dengue and chikungunya among others. Each one of us has developed our very own methodology for overcoming this nuisance.

Mosquito coils, nets, repellants and creams, electric and electronic devices have fallen short of our expectations to annihilate the tribe off the face of earth. They don’t seem to be protecting us as well as we expect them to do.

Even if we do succeed in keeping mosquito-free premises, we cannot rest on our laurels. For, the moment we open the door or window, the little beasts will fly in gleefully and make life miserable for us.

Survival threatened
It is a fact that mosquitoes cannot be simply wished away. They are here for real. Unless we collectively do something about getting rid of them, we cannot avoid being bombarded by mosquito related news which sometimes hit the headlines. It is very obvious that no single individual can take up such a responsibility all on his own. Residents of a street could get together and take turns to do the duties assigned to them.

We must plant a few saplings of neem on the roadside wherever possible and make sure to take care of them. We could grow short hedges along the open drains.

Mint, tulsi, lemon grass, marigold, all spice and other such fragrant plants can dissuade mosquitoes. Besides, these plants will absorb the excessive moisture there-by draining or at least lessening the drain water to a large extent.

Whenever we see sewage water flowing into the storm water drains, we must make sure that we report to the authorities. Let us not wait for the local city corporation’s turn to spray mosquito repellant into the drains, we could spray the same on their behalf on a daily basis by taking turns till all the larvae disappear. We must not allow water to stagnate around our tenements.

If we have space in our compounds, we could make our own compost pit and dispose all bio-degradable waste into them and ensure that we add a layer of soil once in every three or four days.

Though the fumes emitted from burning of garbage and dried leaves can get rid of the pesky mosquitoes, avoid burning for it will pollute the air and will also ruin your chances of making rich compost.

All of us know that united we stand and divided we fall. We have come to a point where our health and perhaps our very survival is being threatened by these winged creatures. We must decide whether we want to annihilate or help the tribe of mosquitoes to thrive and act accordingly.

Mirror , Mirror on the Wall

Radha Prathi, October 3, 2015, DHNS


Mirrors are getting smarter. Soon they will help us pick clothes that fit us just right. Sensors attached to the mirrors will show how something will look on us, without us even having to try them on! Human beings have always had a fascinating relationship with mirrors.

An ancient tale speaks of a magic mirror, which used to classify people as animals on the basis of their behaviour. The moment a person looked into this mirror, his face would be masked by that of an animal whose characteristic traits best matched the person.

What if such a mirror existed today? Perhaps, the embarrassment of being exposed will help man contain his unrefined instincts. Think of all those unsuspecting ladies changing clothes in washrooms or trying on new ones in trial rooms, who become victims to the
vicarious, vicious interests of people with a perverse mind. While the two-way mirror (which helps one see what is going on inside the room) may prove to be a boon to authorities keeping an eye on the public in crowded places like airports and railway stations, it can easily become a bane as has been observed in many sexual harassment cases.

In the beginning Man’s tryst with the mirror, perhaps, began at the dawn of civilisation. Our fables and myths have ample references to this wonderful article, which has the ability to reflect the object in front of it with impeccable honesty. In all likelihood, man was introduced to the concept of mirrors when he first saw his reflection in still waters. The famous Greek myth about Narcissus, a Roman god who happened to look at his reflection in the still waters and fell in love with himself, is one of the earliest chronicles.

Over time, man started using polished metals as mirrors. The glass mirror that we use today was a result of several experiments conducted over the ages. There are several beliefs and superstitions associated with the mirror, which has been a source of mystery and joy to mankind. While the concave and the convex mirrors helped man to laugh at himself, the surgical mirror helped him address medical problems. The rear view mirror used in vehicles helped prevent accidents.

When we zero in to circa 2015, it is not difficult to see that not much has changed. Perhaps we are not looking into still waters to admire ourselves anymore. But that is because we have the luxury of full-length mirrors and pocket mirrors at our disposal. Despite having mirror options in our latest gizmos, have we not lingered alongside the mirror of a parked vehicle on the roadside or the parking area, and given ourselves a quick glance or smoothed our hair?

Fascination unlimitedOur rendezvous with mirrors begins as infants, when our images fill us with awe and wonder. As we grow up, the mirror helps us record bodily changes and experiment with our looks. The waking hours of our adolescent years find us stationed in front of these reflectors for indefinite lengths of time. Growing older does little to help us overcome this fixation. When the mirror sensitises us about the transient nature of life, each of us reacts differently. Some gear up to age gracefully, while others long to rewind the clock by carefully correcting their facial and physical flaws with its aid. And then there are those who wage a war against time and nature.

In case you are under the impression that this is a new-age syndrome, you couldn’t be more wrong. Remember how Snow White was tortured by her step-mother because of a magic mirror. The step-mother was happy with the answers of the mirror as long as she was pronounced to be the “fairest in the land”. The moment the mirror failed to commensurate to her anticipation, her dormant viciousness raised its ugly head. When all her evil plans failed, she shattered the mirror out of sheer frustration. Most of us are like the exasperated queen. Unquestionably, we crave to look presentable, if not beautiful, when we look at our images. It happens to be the quintessential requisition of man and his expectation of mirrors.

It’s not so much about what you see in the mirror as it’s about what you make of it. In the Ramayana, there’s a mention of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya, sighting his graying hair in the mirror one morning and deciding to coronate his son Rama as the crown prince.

However, it’s good to remember that the ‘mirror image’ is not really an exact replica of an object because it following the laws of reflection. Perhaps, it is a cue for us not be carried away by appearances. For, true beauty is reflected in the splendour of our souls, which mirror our very being.