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News : Delhi Sees 14,000 Calls to Elders Helpline

#contactcenterworld

New Delhi, India, Feb 7, 2022 -- For Hari Malhotra (name changed), "14567" is not just a helpline number. It is a route to fighting loneliness in the midst of a raging pandemic that has impacted the elderly more than anyone else.

The 73-year-old widower first called the "Elder Line" in October and has since returned to speak to one of the call officers every week to sing a bhajan or a new poem. That Malhotra needs to seek help from outside his home just to be heard is testament to a social milieu where the generation gap is deepening fast.

What surveys were indicating since the pandemic escalated from the first wave is finally staring us in the face as "Elder Line" expands its footprint. Nearly 14,000 calls — either by the elderly themselves, or their family, relatives and well-wishers — have been catered to in Delhi itself between May 25 and January end.

Malhotra is one of the 7,626 elderly beneficiaries whose details are logged in as "Unique Callers" in the Delhi data of the national helpline for senior citizens, which was rolled out by the ministry of social justice and empowerment during the second Covid wave in May last year. The helpline monitored centrally works on a decentralised model through state governments. It is currently operational in 26 states and UTs.

What surveys were indicating since the pandemic escalated from the first wave is finally staring us in the face as "Elder Line" expands its footprint. Nearly 14,000 calls — either by the elderly themselves, or their family, relatives and well-wishers — have been catered to in Delhi itself between May 25 and January end.

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Malhotra is one of the 7,626 elderly beneficiaries whose details are logged in as "Unique Callers" in the Delhi data of the national helpline for senior citizens, which was rolled out by the ministry of social justice and empowerment during the second Covid wave in May last year. The helpline monitored centrally works on a decentralised model through state governments. It is currently operational in 26 states and UTs.

Delhi government's social welfare department is steering it through voluntary organisation HelpAge India, which is running the "connect centre" where call officers are the first line of response. Wherever required, they coordinate with a team of field officers for outreach on the ground to meet, counsel, rescue and plan the rehabilitation of elderly in need. TOI visited the connect centre located at the far end of a quiet lane in HelpAge India’s office in Qutub Institutional Area.

A large screen flashes the status of calls in progress, while those attending to the callers are glued to their screens, listening intently to the seniors — men and women — looking for hope in their twilight years. "The daily average is about 200 calls and nearly 70% of the callers are men. Around 55% are in the age group of 65-75 years," says Shivendra Kumar Programme Manager for ‘Elder Line’ in Delhi.

Many call asking for information and end up sharing their distress, anxieties and even a sense of loneliness, just like Hari Malhotra. While pandemic-related queries have dominated, with 5,376 actionable calls in this regard, a worrying trend has firmed up consistently with many seniors calling for information on ways to deal with mounting financial struggles — pension woes being the most discussed issue and often the icebreaker in a conversation that follows about the challenges. A significantly high number of calls has been for pensions. The helpline has dealt with 3,628 calls regarding old-age pension and legal issues.

Alerts flagged for field interventions for those "unique IDs" flashing on the screen are also about redressal of disturbing social manifestations — from abuse and property disputes to abandonment. Call officers share that property disputes often end up in harassment of the elderly: one woman shared that her family locked up the fridge while another said that her access to electricity supply was removed.

Call officer Deobrat Rai elaborates on the story of the elderly person who calls asking for him specifically to share his bhajans or poems. "He just wanted to talk to someone. He was lonely, sad and not feeling good about the situation in his life," Deobrat says. The call officer, too, calls Malhotra to inquire about his well-being.

Another regular caller is Narayan Iyer. He lost his wife in May last year and is struggling to cope with caregiving duties for his daughter who is suffering with mental health issues. Repeated requests for help have gone unheard by his son, who, instead, has started demanding his share in the property.

While the number of SOS calls for rescue have been few, they still add up to around 31 cases in just a span of over eight months. A 74-year-old man was found abandoned and ailing in Kalkaji. A widower, he was abandoned by his son after he fractured his leg in an accident. After he was rescued and admitted to Safdarjung hospital, a surgery was carried out and he recovered to tell his story.

The helpline tracked the son and it took a few counselling sessions before the man agreed to take proper care of his father. For the elderly man, it was the difference between homecoming and getting lost forever as a homeless person on the streets of Delhi.

#contactcenterworld

Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com


Today's Tip of the Day - Voice Mail

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2022

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Our contact center solution allows processing the high volume of client requests from different channels (voice, webchat, email, web callbacks), running massive outbound dialing campaigns, and makes all call center operations visible for management. Voiptime Cloud Contact Center is a professional calling solution for outbound and inbound calls. It’s a plug-and-play software that immediately increases the productivity of your call center department. With the help of our solution you are able to:
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