Coronavirus: How these youngsters are helping the elderly of Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula during COVID-19

Grey Shades is a youth-led initiative that is addressing the need for the social and emotional well-being of senior citizens. Since March, the team has been working with volunteers and local authorities to help the elderly stuck in their houses.
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Among the many concerns of COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown is the health and well-being of our elderly. Senior citizens are at higher risk of being affected severely by the virus and due to the lockdown in place, they have had to face several difficulties in going about their everyday life.

Co-founders Inderpreet & Wyonna and the first cohort of Grey Shades Fellows

Grey Shades, a youth-led organisation started by Inderpreet Singh and Wyonna Dsouza, has been working with the elderly since 2016 to help address a fast-growing problem in the county: the lack of socio-emotional support systems for our elderly.

100-day Fellowship

Grey Shades Fellowship is a 100-day curriculum-based experiential learning programme for senior citizens, which promotes and provides a space for active ageing to help them realise their potential. Through the six-month programme, this team of youngsters engages senior citizens in the Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula area through activities like digital literacy, art therapy, dance, meditation, and nutrition-related talks, among other things.

The team aims to re-establish the social and epistemic value of the elderly in our society.

COVID Relief for Elderly

Due to the rising concerns around COVID-19, the team had postponed their physical gatherings since early March as a precaution. As the country was moved into lockdown overnight on March 25, there was little-to-no preparation to support the elderly with their daily needs.

“A lot of the elderly in the tri-city actually live by themselves. Their children work abroad, or in the metros. Once the shutdown was enforced, for them to get groceries or medicines on time has been a difficulty,” said Inderpreet, who has been recognised as an Ashoka Youth Venturer for his work.

Volunteers offering services to the elderly

Grey Shades team quickly enrolled over 500 volunteers who could offer their support to the elderly in need. Once enrolled, the team took these volunteers through a vetting process and orientation to ensure safety and best practices while dealing with the elderly. Their helpline has been servicing over 100 elderly people and their families throughout the lockdown.

The team currently offers door-step delivery of essentials like groceries, medicines, dietary supplements, etc, and has been working in alignment with the efforts of the government administrations in Chandigarh, Mohali (Punjab), and Panchkula (Haryana).

"Having retired almost 20 years back, becoming a Grey Shades Fellow was the first time in a long time that I've felt like a part of a community. Getting up every day with a purpose and looking forward to the activities that we'll be doing – it has made a huge difference to me. Life has become more active, happy and creative overall," said Narinder Kaur, a 69-year-old fellow who lives with her 74-year-old husband in Mohali.

The couple lives by themself and had to let go of their maid because of precautions due to coronavirus.

"With the curfew, getting my knee medication became difficult because it's available only in Chandigarh and cross-state travel was not allowed. The Grey Shades team helped us a lot with getting the essential things. These young people are taking a big risk to go out and help us. I hope things are normal again and I can go to the in-person daily sessions with other Grey Shades Fellows," she added.



Grey Shades Helpline

Grey Shades Helpline

“We have launched dedicated counselling services as well to help address the anxieties of the pandemic and post-pandemic world for elderly people. We are actively looking to enrol more volunteers and raise resources to be able to do more for our seniors,” said Wyonna.

“The organisation is planning to start virtual sessions on art, dance, yoga, nutrition etc, to boost morale and build community spirit among the elderly,” added Inderpreet.

To help the Grey Shades team ,you can contribute through their online fundraising campaign [https://fundraisers.giveindia.org/projects/456].

People in the tri-city area can help by sharing the helpline (+91 9999 712430) with the elderly in their neighbourhood, and also sign up as volunteers.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)