Aged homes in Goa proliferate, reflecting changing times..

Pamela D’Mello: Aged Homes proliferate in Goa.

From: Eddie Fernandes (
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 14:46:54 +0000

By Pamela D’Mello. The Asian Age.

PANAJI: Goa’s homes for the aged have proliferated in recent years, giving hint of rapid urbanisation and the loss of
the old ethos of this region.

“(In the past) the old were respected, loved and cared for, and made to feel they were an integral part of the family,” says Dr Ena M. Abreu, who has recently studied aged homes in Goa.

Five decades ago, a visit to a Goan home would mean meeting a large extended family — grandparents, old bachelor uncles and spinster aunts, and an occasional cousin all living under one ancestral roof, she notes.

At that time, there was just one home for the destitute aged at Chimbel, a village-suburb of Panaji, which was then run by the colonial Portuguese government.

But, the scene has changed vastly. There are now around thirty homes for the aged, run mostly by non-government agencies. This signals rapid change in the region in recent years.

Rapid urbanisation has also gone along with a skyrocketing in the cost of living. Goa is one of the most expensive states to live in, as most consumables are brought in from elsewhere, comments Dr Abreu.

It has also become costly to maintain old village houses. Labour and material costs have gone up sharply. Families also find it better to sell their ancestral homes to developers and move into two or three room flats. “In such a set up, there is just no place for the old,” says she.

Explaining the phenomenon of growing homes for the aged, Dr Abreu says it is also brought on by a “greed for property”. Portuguese law allows for equality in inheritance, but the costs and time spent over litigation makes it “virtually impossible” for the old to fight for their rights.

In addition, many Goan middle class families have been impoverished by the Land to the Mundkar (Tiller) law, which Dr Abreu says was brought in to “cultivate a vote bank”.

Colonial Goa lacked banks, and savings were invested in rice fields or coconut groves. These assets were swept from under their often middle-class owners feet, making it tough to support large extended families.

Unemployment is also high in Goa, while the young have left for green pastures in the West, leaving the old to fend for themselves.

Dr Abreu adds that Goan society is “unwilling” to cope with the disabiled to alcoholism, which is still considered a “stigma” in rural Goa. Families don’t want to support in rehabilitation, she adds.

She adds that while nuns are doing a “very commendable job” in looking after the old, “no amount of care can really make up for the psychological shock by loss of home, family and community.”

Forwarded by Eddie Fernandes.