Donating organs gaining acceptance – Senior citizens leading the way.

From The Hindu.

CB18--SENIOR_CITIZENThe concept of donating one’s body for medical research is gradually gaining acceptance among the people here. Groups of senior citizens have started pledging body.

Recently 46 members of Brindavan Senior Citizen Foundation pledged to donate their eyes and 20 bodies.

A body was donated to Coimbatore Medical College Hospital in 2008. Eyes were harvested from six in the last few years, says R. Parthasarathy, 68, vice-president of the Foundation.

“Each experience taught us a new lesson. The last time eyes were harvested, blood began to ooze from the body as the donor was taking blood thinning medicines. Now, we have begun to collect the medical history of all those who have pledged so that the doctors can come prepared.”

The objective, says P. Hariharan, 82, who is coordinating the initiative, is to help train the future generation of medical professionals. Many of the senior citizens are motivated by a desire to contribute to society.

“Such initiatives will receive a boost if the procedures are simplified and the Government undertakes to transport the body,” he adds.

For S. Raghunathan, 64, a resident of Brindavan Pal Grove at Thondamuthur here, motivation came from his 84-year-old mother who lives with him and has pledged to donate her body.

“I and wife have both pledged to donate our eyes following my mother’s footsteps.”

While awareness on eye donation has increased exponentially in the recent years, several inhibitions still prevent body donations from catching on in a big way, says A. Sridharan, managing director of Covai Property Centre.

“Even if a person is willing to donate body, their heirs or relatives may object to it and insist on performing the last rites. The concept of ‘living will’ (a legal document a person uses to make known her wish on life-prolonging medical treatment) is not well-known in India.”

In case of eye donations, a medical team will come to the house for the purpose. But, in the case of body donation, the family members have to take it to the Government hospital and the medical college. The transportation cost is huge, says Mr. Sridharan.

P. Shanthakumar, founder president of Thozhar Trust, says the trust is creating awareness among elders that the body will be used only for research and academic purposes by students.

“Body can be donated only to Government hospitals. They reallocate it to private medical colleges and hospitals. A Government hospital will normally require 14 bodies a year,” he adds.

A 95-year-old woman’s body was donated to the CMCH on Monday.

Her son V. Jeyaprakash says: “My mother, Sakkubai Ammal, had registered for body donation in February. After she died on Sunday, the body was handed over to the hospital the next day.”

More than 40 others who had done voluntary work with her at an ashram in Salem, have now come forward to donate body.

Advice From a 101 Year Old Doctor

hinoharaDr Shigeaki Hinohara is one of the world’s longest-serving physicians and educators. Since 1941 he has been healing patients at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo and teaching at St. Luke’s College of Nursing. After World War II, he envisioned a world-class hospital and college springing from the ruins of Tokyo; thanks to his pioneering spirit and business savvy; the doctor turned these institutions into the nation’s top medical facility and nursing school. Today he serves as chairman of the board of trustees at both organizations. Always willing to try new things, he has published around 150 books since his 75th birthday, including one “Living Long, Living Good” that has sold more than 1.2 million copies. As the founder of the New Elderly Movement, Hinohara encourages others to live a long and happy life, a quest in which no role model is better than the doctor himself.

Energy: Dr Shigeaki Hinohara says energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot. We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.

Longevity: Dr Shigeaki Hinohara said all people who live long regardless of nationality, race or gender share one thing in common: None are overweight…

Diet: For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.

Always plan ahead: My schedule book is already full until 2014, with lectures and my usual hospital work. In 2016 I’ll have some fun, though: I plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics! There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. The current retirement age was set at 65 half a century ago, when the average life expectancy in Japan was 68 years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old. Today, Japanese women live to be around 86 and men 80, and we have 36,000 centenarians in our country. In 20 years we will have about 50,000 people over the age of 100…

Share what you know: I give 150 lectures a year, some for 100 elementary-school children, others for 4,500 business people. I usually speak for 60 to 90 minutes, standing, to stay strong.

Treatment: When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.

 Health and wellbeing: To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.

Inspiration: My inspiration is Robert Browning’s poem “Abt Vogler.” My father used to read it to me. It encourages us to make big art, not small scribbles. It says to try to draw a circle so huge that there is no way we can finish it while we are alive. All we see is an arch; the rest is beyond our vision but it is there in the distance.

Pain: Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain. Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.

Material things: Don’t be crazy about amassing material things. Remember: You don’t know when your number is up, and you can’t take it with you to the next place.

Preparedness: Hospitals must be designed and prepared for major disasters, and they must accept every patient who appears at their doors. We designed St. Luke’s so we can operate anywhere: in the basement, in the corridors, in the chapel. Most people thought I was crazy to prepare for a catastrophe, but on March 20, 1995, I was unfortunately proven right when members of the Aum Shinrikyu religious cult launched a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway. We accepted 740 victims and in two hours figured out that it was sarin gas that had hit them. Sadly we lost one person, but we saved 739 lives.

 Science: Science alone can’t cure or help people. Science lumps us all together, but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are connected to their hearts. To know the illness and help people, we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.

Incidents and opportunities: Life is filled with incidents. On March 31, 1970, when I was 59 years old, I boarded the Yodogo, a flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and as Mount Fujicame into sight, the plane was hijacked by the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction. I spent the next four days handcuffed to my seat in 40-degree heat. As a doctor, I looked at it all as an experiment and was amazed at how the body slowed down in a crisis.

Role model: Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do. My father went to the United States in 1900 to study at Duke University in North Carolina. He was a pioneer and one of my heroes. Later I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask myself how they would deal with the problem. It’s wonderful to live long. Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.


Actively managing joint pain in elders

jointpainUntil a few decades ago, people believed that progressive blindness was an unavoidable consequence of aging. Not anymore. With easy cataract operations and other advances in corrective surgery, vision is no longer such a big problem for most senior citizens.

Similarly, in today’s world, most elders believe non-specific joint pain is inevitable. This, again, need not be true. While many of the underlying reasons for joint pain such as arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, loss of muscle, and stiff and brittle tendons and ligaments cannot be completely reversed with medication or surgery, appropriate footwear, seats and cushions, orthopaedic support devices and supplements can help alleviate joint pain to a large extent.

Take for example, one of the most common pain areas – the knee. A lot of strain is put on the knee during the acts of sitting down and getting up – especially in the toilet. A lot of relief can be got by using simple devices such as toilet raisers and appropriately fixed grab bars which can ensure reduced pressure on the knees. Similarly, knee supports and braces can go a long way in reducing pain and deferring knee replacement operations. Also, Collagen peptide supplements have been shown to reduce joint pain especially for people with acute pain.

Another common problem for many people is back pain – especially in the lumbar region. A wide variety of cushions, back support devices, belts and corsets are available that can relieve such chronic pain. In addition, minor adjustments in lifestyle and choice of chairs can lead to perceptible reduction in pain in a short period of time.

Similarly, regular exercise, massage and yoga can help you regain your flexibility and even muscle tone to an extent.

So whether it is your heel or arch of the foot, ankle, knee or hip, coccyx or tailbone, small of the back/lumbar region, upper back or neck, there are easy to use solutions available that can dramatically reduce your pain and improve the quality of your life.

10 investment tips to lead a peaceful retired life

You may have spent a good part of your life earning hard so that you can lead a peaceful retired life. Yet, the investment challenges for a retired individual remains aplenty. Diminished income flow and steady rise in price of essentials, higher medical needs and lower risk taking ability all add to the challenges. To top it senior citizens, the world over, are victims of mis-selling incidents. Here are a few simple tips to enable you to lead your retired life peacefully:

1.    Emergency kitty

Ensure that you hold a good proportion of your money in liquid instruments to meet medical emergencies. Agreed, that will mean idling way the money in savings bank. But use options such as flexi deposits in your savings bank account, which will sweep excess money from your account into FD and move then back to you savings account when you overdraw. Options such as liquid funds are also good if you wish to build a contingency reserve. They are reasonably safe and can be withdrawn a day after you initiate a redemption transaction.

2.    Diversify

Ensure that you don’t place all your eggs in one basket. You may think that a bank is very safe or a 60-year old finance company cannot go wrong or an investment is guaranteed. We have had instances of banks going bust and finance companies being strapped for cash because their borrowers defaulted. A guarantee is only as good as the strength of the guarantor. Hence, diversify your investments across banks, post offices, companies, government bonds and mutual funds. Even within banks, do not go overboard on a single bank, especially co-operative banks.

3.    Different strokes for different folks

When you invest for your grand child’s future or are investing money on behalf of your children, remember that their need would be ‘wealth creation’ and not ‘income generation’. That means your own risk metric will not apply to them. Take risks that you understand and risks that will reward well in the long term. Consider more regulated and nuanced products such as mutual funds, gold ETFs and debentures in such a case.

4.    Go for top-rated instruments

When you invest in company fixed deposits or corporate bonds, stick to top rated (AAA) bonds and deposits. Most companies other than NBFCs (non-banking finance companies) may not disclose their rating as they are not mandated to. But unless you are in the know of how the company/business works, you are better off sticking to rated instruments. Also do not go for very long tenures of over 3-5 years as companies’ fundamentals can change.

5.    Insure with care

You should have been done with your insurance in your working life. Closer to retirement of later, if your agent comes up with fancies policies linked to markets, be wary. Besides having high premium, a multiple riders would prevent you from enjoying a worthy plan.

6. Assured return claims

Aside of fixed return products such as deposits, no insurance or mutual fund plan can give you assured fixed returns. There are now advertisements (in public places) of commodity/currency trading that promise assured returns. Pay no attention to these.

These are merely speculative bets.

7.    Beware of high returns

If you have not already burnt your fingers in the series of ‘chit fund’ and ‘benefit fund’ scams in the 80s and 90s good for you. Don’t attempt to get hurt now. Remember that high returns are not possible unless your money is deployed in risky ventures. That means there is a good chance that the businesses of the borrowers (from the chit fund) can be risky.

8.  Land is a slippery slope

Land is one investment that entails lot of money, lot more risks and very poor/painful redressal mechanism if you are conned. Even if you have large sums, do not get into speculative bets in land, unless you have been doing that for a living. Poor title, lack of computerized records and land grabbing all make this asset class fraught with risks. Don’t forget the farm/land schemes in the 90s that went bust with most people not getting back a penny. The settlements are still pending well after a decade.

9.    Retain property

If you bought your own property, retain it for yourself and your spouse during your life span. Let you children enjoy it after your life. Make a will that will specify who will benefit from your assets after your life span.

Even if you are in financial difficulties for running your household, consider a reverse mortgage option of your property with banks. This will provide you with some regular income stream as it’s a scheme that specifically caters to senior citizens.

10. Form a trust for a special child

If you have children with special needs or in general wish to leave a source of regular income for your family, consider forming a trust. Take the help of a lawyer or financial planner to have a trustee and ensure that your child’s need is taken care of, over the beneficiary’s (the child) life span.

In all this do not forget to live life well post retirement. If you have sufficient savings, spend on yourselves well instead of hoarding for the next generation. They would have formed their own kitty sooner or later.

(The author is Ms. Vidya Bala, Head, Mutual Fund Research, at

New York times looks at family care giving from an NRI Perspective

New York times blog regularly covers issues relating to senior citizens in USA.  Many of the issues addressed are relevant to India as well.  Their latest entry talks about how NRIs cope with long-distance caring situations where the parent(s) live in India and need to be monitored regularly.

19noa-pande-blog480How many people who come to America for an education or a job and stay eventually become transnational caregivers — people who care for relatives or friends across national boundaries? No one really knows. But there’s certainly a long tradition of cross-border family interactions in this nation of immigrants.

Both historically and today, financial support from people who come to the United States flows to relatives across oceans, and south to Mexico and Central and Latin America. Some immigrants spend parts of the year here and in their countries of origin, looking after young children or older parents left behind.

 But the dynamics of these arrangements are different now because of two major trends. Across the world, people are living longer: more immigrants have aging relatives in distant lands in their 70s, 80s or 90s, with all the related medical and social issues.

Meanwhile, technology has transformed how people can communicate over long distances and altered expectations of what people can do for far-flung relatives. Whereas letters once took weeks to cross an ocean and phone service was scarce in Africa, Asia and rural areas of other continents, today video chats occur in real-time and almost everyone has cellphones.

Makes for real interesting reading.  To read more, go here.


Appa-Amma Scheme

MA-Chidambaram-StadiumIn a first of its kind, India Cements, the owner of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), the IPL team has launched a service specifically for senior citizens.

Most Indians are cricket crazy and not surprisingly this is true across all demographics including age.  Many senior citizens, it was felt, were unable to attend the IPL matches because of lack of facilities, escorts and other support.  This has prompted India cements to launch the Appa Amma scheme where they will pick up the seniors by car, take them to the stadium, escort them to their seat, provide them with food and after the match drop them back at home. The service costs about Rs. 6000/- exclusive of the ticket (which can cost upwards of Rs. 5000/-).

A wonderful gesture that hopefully paves the path to a more sensitive, senior friendly India.

RBI reduces interest rate on Senior Citizens Savings Scheme


The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today notified 0.1 per cent reduction each in the interest rates on Public Provident Fund (PPF) and Senior Citizen Savings Scheme (SCSS) to be effective from fiscal beginning April 1, 2013.

The rate of interest on PPF has been lowered from 8.8 per cent to 8.7 per cent with effect from April 1, 2013, the RBI said in a notification.

The rate of interest on 5 year SCSS has been reduced to 9.2 per cent from 9.3 per cent for entire 2013-14 fiscal, it said.

To read more about it click