Tibet Foundation

TIE - Care for the Elderly through the Tibetan Homes Foundation in Mussoorie - Taken from TF Newsletter 45

Dec 15, 2004

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TIE - Care for the Elderly through the Tibetan Homes Foundation in Mussoorie

The Tibetan Homes Foundation was established in Mussoorie, a former ‘hill station’ in Northern India, by the Dalai Lama in 1962. After the Dalai Lama left Tibet for exile in India in 1959 he stayed in Mussoorie for over a year, before moving to make his home in Dharamsala. Many refugees, following His Holiness into exile, also settled in Mussoorie. Originally established to care for the many orphans and destitute refugee Tibetan children in India, the work of the Tibetan Homes Foundation soon expanded to providing care for the elderly. Many old people who escaped from Tibet in 1959 became separated from their families and, too elderly or infirm to find work, had no one to care for or support them in exile. Today, many of the old people in need of care are those who fled Tibet 45 years ago who worked to build the settlements and communities in exile that have provided education and shelter to Tibetans ever since and have helped to maintain a strong sense of identity, culture and community for the refugees and those born in exile. The Tibetan Homes Foundation runs three homes for the elderly, providing care for approximately 150 old people. Two of the homes are at Rajpur, near Dehra Dun and the other is at Mussoorie, close to the Tibetan Homes Foundation School. These homes provide care for elderlies from the Tibetan community throughout India who have no one to support them and no means to provide for themselves. The average age of the residents is between 65 and 75. The homes have a common prayer and dining hall and bedrooms are shared. A Supervisor runs them and helpers care for those who cannot dress, wash or feed themselves. Support provided for old people covers the costs of accommodation, food, bedding and clothing, daily care and health needs. Health care is particularly important. The main health problems faced by the elderlies are high blood pressure and respiratory problems. The Tibetan Homes Foundation has a dispensary for treating minor illnesses. More serious cases are referred to the local hospital. The elderly residents spend their days praying in the prayer hall, circumambulating nearby temples and listening to news. Gardening is also a very popular activity, and the old people grown flowers and vegetables for the Homes. If they are able, they can also attend ceremonies and prayers at the local temple and take part in other activities. Every year Tibetan Homes Foundation celebrates an ‘SOS’ Day*, with speeches, presentations, games and activities for children and the elderlies, and performances of Tibetan opera. 2003 was the 40th Anniversary of the Tibetan Homes Foundation, and the Dalai Lama, to the great joy of the elderlies from the Homes, who were able to receive his blessing, attended the celebrations October 1st is also celebrated as ‘Elderly Day’, when Tibetan Homes Foundation organises activities such as a religious tour to different monasteries in the Doon Volley, or a shopping trip. The Tibetan Homes Foundation also provides a monthly stipend to nearly 200 elderlies who have a home and can, to a greater or lesser extent, care for themselves, but who have no source of income for their daily needs. Stipends are given to old people throughout India whose details have been sent to the Tibetan Homes Foundation by the Welfare Officer or Settlement Representative where they live. Most of the income raised to support this programme is through sponsorship of an old person. This sponsorship covers the cost of food, clothing, health care and overheads at the homes. It can be hard to find sponsors for old people. Although THF try to send news of the elderlies to sponsors each year, the old people themselves may not be able to read or write and very few would understand English. And, inevitably, sponsorship of an old person may not be for long. However, most sponsors are happy to transfer their sponsorship to a new recipient when the old person they have been supporting dies, and there is no shortage of people needing care. And while sponsorship of an old person may not be as obviously rewarding as receiving thank-you letters, pictures, photos and exam results from sponsored children, the need for support is just as great. Without it, many old Tibetans in exile would pass their final days alone and destitute. * Tibetan Homes Foundation is a part of the worldwide SOS Children’s Village organisation