Homecoming- Bridging Generations

“Dada, please sing for us?” Dada is popular. He changes the mood of the place with his energy sometimes.  With insurmountable happiness Dada holds his guitar and starts strumming his favourite tune. The ease with which he can play the chords is delightful. He’s got the energy of a 20 year old because once the guitar is in his hand he doesn’t stop. In his frail yet melodious voice he sings ‘A Summer Holiday’, probably remembering his ‘summer of 69’? The guitar is a collection of his memories, waiting to be tuned for whoever wants to listen. We are just the audience he needs. The Homecoming Project is about opening the doors between generations. Many like Dada have a sandook full of unheard, cherished memoirs that they want to share. Each trunk has a lifetime of experience, the feeling of loss, separation, joy, abandonment, withdrawal and a dollop of hope for what lies beyond. Coming “Home”, one expects comfort, non-judgement and an unparalleled lightness not found beyond the homely confines. This project therefore has been launched to recreate that feeling. As Social Welfare Schemes, Old Age Homes are built to inhabit the elderly who seek to live a dignified life as ‘senior citizens’. Many however, don’t have a say in this regard. They have no option but to find refuge in Old Age Homes. Rehabilitation however is not an easy process. The physiological changes at old age, combined with the emotional and psychological upheaval of leaving one’s ‘Home’ has always presented a challenge to caretakers. Quite similarly, ‘Children’s Homes’ across the country offer an equal chance of life to ‘at-risk’ children. They provide shelter, nutrition and education to the ones who life on the margins of the socio-economic setup. The importance given to schemes surrounding rehabilitation and integration have received a great deal of attention recently. The Homecoming Project is a recent addition to the Foundation. With a vision of fostering a relationship between members of different generations, we connect the youth from children’s homes in Delhi with senior citizens residing in Old Age Homes. Within the chosen populace, there is a genuine need for connection to fill a void created by loss and lack of support. Senior citizens, with their years of experience would become guides and mentors for our young ones. Conversely, we feel that the vibrancy and the youthfulness of the children is a way to bring in joy and cheer into the lives of senior citizens. Workshops normally take place at the old age home and range from group activities to inter-personal interactions. Sharing of life experiences is crucial, giving each group a chance to understand vulnerabilities and develop a sense of empathy. As the project progresses, we wish to take on artists and volunteers who’d like to engage with the two age groups with this program. Methodologically, we pair up a senior citizen’s home and a children’s home in an area, conduct positive interventions through Expressive Arts to facilitate an interaction. Our current clusters include:

  1. Aradhna Senior Citizens Home and Bal Sahyog Children’s Home in Central Delhi
  2. Sahara Home for Senior Citizens and Arushi Girls Home (A unit of Salaam Balak Trust) in South Delhi
Homecoming is also a pilot format in many ways. Workshop modules have to changed and altered to suit all age groups. We have tried innovative interventions like Pizza Making and Diya Painting, organising participants in groups to help each other out. Singing and dancing have worked great as ice-breakers. Each passing session, more children and senior citizens develop close inter-personal bonds of love and affection. Many children look forward to meeting their ‘grandmothers’ the elderly wait for the ‘bachas’ eagerly. We’ve just taken baby steps. We hope to expand this project, reaching out to more interested volunteers willing to contribute their time and energy to this project.