Senior citizens, also known as “people who are 60 years and above” by the Nepalese government, represent 6.5% of the national population as determined by Prof.
In order to tackle the abandonment of elders, the government founded in 1973 the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare Council and created the first elderly care home in Nepal. Since then non-governmental and private organisations have taken over and about 50 elderly care homes have emerged all over the country. Curious about the experience of elderly people in such social structures, we have decided to visit two elderly centres in Jhapa region. Birtamode’s Old Days Home and Jagat Guru Yogiraj Kamalnayan Aarcharya
As President Bikram Limbu explained to us, “most of them don’t know where the ashram is. They are brought here by caring neighbours, close relatives or, in the case of homeless individuals, by citizens who knew them closely.” Thanks to the help of the local community, Birtamode’s Old Days Home is now hosting 24 residents – its maximum capacity – men and women, ageing from 60 to 95 years old, and receives inquiries from 20 more! Each newcomer is given a bed in one of the shared dorms, gender-based, and gets to know the centre and its people. Similarly to Birtamode’s Old Days Home, Jagat Guru Ashram doesn’t rely on any governmental subsidies. The ashram is mostly financed by the savings of the residents and counts on the donations given by the surrounding local communities. It also benefits from the support of the international community as one representative of a North American social organisation comes once a year to provide the ashram with medicine, food, clothes, equipment and sometimes money. Founded between 1995 and 1996, the ashram hosts 53 Nepalese people, men and women, from any age or social background. The youngest resident is only 40 years old! Unlike common elderly centres, Jagat Guru Ashram is a religion-based shelter where the only requirements to get in are to follow Vaishnav branch of Hinduism and to build your own room within the estate. From cooking to gardening, worshipping Vishnu or taking care of the eldest inhabitants, each resident has a couple of duties to fulfil daily for the community to work
Both centres provide access to medical care as the advanced age of the residents makes it compulsory. For benign pathologies and if fit enough, the residents walk or take a bus to the nearby medical centre. Both elderly care homes also regularly welcome medical doctors and medical camps such as eye screening camps organised by Birtamode’s eye care centres. For more advanced pathologies
“We didn’t have anything. They asked us to come here so we came and now we are happy” confesses Khardga Kumari, an 80 year old unmarried woman. Often rejected by their children, childless, homeless after the death of their husband who was providing for the entire family or simply wanting to escape the turmoil of
The sense of community that arises from Dr homes gives their residents a place they belong to, along with a new purpose for their lives. They are not “just about to die” anymore. They are living so that tomorrow, they can have another long talk or animated card game with the family they have created for themselves. Happy and together. Prof. Dr. Mrigendra Lal Singh in his book Ageing of the population of Nepal, Chapter 19.
 Magar & Kumar, 2015, Nepalese are Living Longer, Nepali Times. Samjana Thapa, Bachelor Thesis, Abandonment of elderly people in Nepal, Elderly people’s perspective.  Gerlach, P. K., 2015, Perspective on Parental Abandonment: Causes, Effects and Options. Break the Cycle.  Pradeep Acharya, Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, Vol.2.
By Cécile Barthet and Claire Barthet