Sanghar Jetha Naran and Sanghar Ranbai Jetha, a couple living in rural Gujarat have been married for 50 years now. They have spent most of their lives in making ends meet to ensure the survival of their five children – four daughters and a son. While Jetha Bhai is 86, Ranbai is 75. At this point in their lives, when the couple needs regular care and attention, their only son Jignesh has moved out to live separately with his wife. Today, Jignesh visits his parents occasionally and refuses to foot their medical bills. The couple not only feels isolated, but are trapped in a helpless situation where they do not have access to basic healthcare facilities.
In India, population of the elderly stands at 100 million and is projected to grow to 324 million, constituting 20% of the total population by 2050. Due to rapid urbanization, the size of a family is shrinking resulting in disintegration of the joint family setup in rural areas. Also, the healthcare infrastructure for the elderly is still evolving in India. Affordable and free healthcare services are hard to come by, especially in rural areas.
Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL), a subsidiary of Tata Power, has been bringing positive changes to the lives of communities living around its areas of operation by focusing on the community including on elderly healthcare. As part of Project Arogya, an initiative started by joining hands with HelpAge India, CGPL has launched rural Mobile Medicare Unit (MMU) which provides doorstep healthcare services in 18 villages. After a schedule is put in place to cover all the villages, the MMU is taken to each village. This MMU has all the medical equipments which are used by well-trained doctors for examining patients. Also, free medicines are distributed to the elderly.
As mentioned earlier, the Jethas left no stone unturned in providing basic facilities to their children. At some point, the entire family was involved in farming. To supplement their income, Jetha Bhai decided to move abroad as a construction worker. After marrying off his daughters, he sold his land. Today, he spends this corpus judiciously to provide for himself and Ranbai. Sadly, the couple suffers from hypertension. Given the lack of healthcare facilities in their village, they buy the medicines from a local chemist. To make matters worse, the closest medical practitioner sits in a faraway village.
While the couple has the zeal to take up work, their deteriorating physical and mental health comes in the way.
Fortunately, things have changed for the couple after they visited the MMU early this year. Besides consultation from a senior and well-experienced physician, the elderly couple now have access to free medicines. In less than a year, with consistent healthcare services, their blood pressure has restored to normal levels.
This simple yet effective intervention by CGPL is undoubtedly transforming the lives of senior citizens across 18 villages in Gujarat.