At a time when the world is fast progressing, Mancherial District Collector R.V. Karnan has turned the spotlight on senior citizens who are struggling to find a place to relax and hang out. As part of a unique initiative, a recreation centre has been set up for the elderly as a platform to socialise and network with their peer group, with the objective being to renew their health and spirits.
So what inspired him to set up a recreation centre? “According to the Senior Citizens Maintenance Act 2007, it’s the Collector’s (or RDO’s) responsibility to look after the welfare of the senior citizens in a district,” shares Karnan.
“In nuclear families, parents go to work while kids go to school. So the elderly are left alone in the house and are isolated. None of the family members spend time with them, which in turn, sends them into depression. So I felt the strong need to set up a recreation centre, which engages them to socialise and network with their peers. Such an initiative can help them lead a better life, and perhaps even increase their longevity,” he explains.
Apparently, Karnan restored an abandoned building and spent around `30 lakh from his Crucial Balance Funds (CBF) to turn it into a recreation centre, with the restoration process taking around two months.
Interestingly, the centre also provides medical aid to its members. “Most of the members are suffering from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, BP, arthritis, etc. so instead of waiting at the hospital, we have a dedicated doctor (under NCD program) who visits the centre every week,” shares Karnan.
Hearteningly, a few senior citizens are also voluntarily mentoring students at the district study circles for unemployed youth. “We want to use their expertise so that they can pass on their wisdom and contribute to the society by helping the youth find jobs; even they feel satisfied,” says the Karaikudi-born Collector who admits that getting women to join is difficult. “They are unable to travel like men do, but we are trying to bring more women in through awareness programmes,” he says.
Karnan adds that the response to the recreation centre has been overwhelming. “People are owning the centre, and some are even contributing from their pension and trying to solve petty issues,” he says.
With such a busy schedule, how does he manage his personal life? “Thankfully, I have an understanding wife, Priyanka, who works as Deputy Collector for Mancherial. We have a baby boy, and chill out by going on a holiday to nearby tourist attractions.”