Rescuing the elderly from abandonment

In just over two years, S. Dusthageer has helped more than 120 senior citizens

In a little over two years, S. Dusthageer, a social worker in The Nilgiris, has rescued more than 120 senior citizens abandoned by their families.

“The first thing we do when we bring someone to the shelter is to give them a bath, besides a haircut and a shave. This restores their sense of dignity after living on the streets,” says Mr. Dusthageer, who runs a home for the destitute at Mullikorai, near Udhagamandalam town, with the help of the municipality and the district administration.

From other districts

Many of the people who are abandoned in The Nilgiris are from other districts. “As it is a tourist destination, people coming here abandon their elderly family members. This is extremely sad, a certain death sentence because the temperature dips to just a few degrees above the freezing point in winters,” says Mr. Dusthageer.

So far, the efforts of social workers like him and the district administration have helped to reunite 36 elderly persons with their families. Unlike the others, those who are reunited might have broken with their families owing to medical issues, and their families agree to take them back.

Convincing people who have been rejected by their families that there are people who wish to care for them is the hardest part of the job, says Mr. Dusthageer. “When we approach them to take them to the shelter, they are reluctant. We then show them the pictures of the other people at the shelter, and they reluctantly agree. Sometimes, it takes us an hour to convince them that we mean no harm.”

Some of the people have been living in the shelter since it was started. Raju, one of the earliest residents, says many people choose to stay there permanently.

“We are treated well here by the staff. Even if our families come back to take us, we will not return as we have a very nice community of people.”

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