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The Nana Nani Foundation aims to improve the quality of life of senior citizens. Dolly Mirchandani looks at how its activities are progressing
Nana-nani parks (primarily for grandparents) were conceptualised a decade back by the late Pramod Navalkar, former culture minister of Maharashtra. But the idea was successfully executed by Shhyam Singhania, the founder & managing trustee of the Nana Nani Foundation (NNF). The Foundation has already made a difference to the life of Mumbai’s senior citizens by providing them green and serene—yet vibrant—spaces where they can meet with safety and dignity. A nana-nani park is open only for those who are above the age of 60; at least one spouse has to be a senior citizen.
The first nana-nani park at Girgaum Chowpatty (Mumbai) was part of a bigger project to clean up the beach and rid it of anti-social elements and encroachments. Mr Singhania took up the beautification challenge; the park was inaugurated on 26 January 1998. It has turned into a quiet little oasis of relaxation for its members. Senior citizens can start the day with a walk around the beautiful garden and enjoy complimentary tea and free newspapers, before they go home. The popularity of these parks has been recognised now—18 such facilities have been set up all over Mumbai. However due to fund constraints, NNF is able to maintain only three parks on its own—the park at Girgaum Chowpatty along with the Aaji Aajoba Udyan and the Deendayal Upadhyay Udyan (both situated in Dadar, central Mumbai).
The facilities in these parks include yoga, exercises, laughter-therapy sessions, group discussions and related activities. Some even have space for medical check-ups, picnics and facilities for celebrating birthdays & other festivities. The Girgaum park is now developing a ‘Nakshatra Garden’, whose theme is the 27 constellations, each represented by a particular tree with a meditation spot under each of them. Meditating under the tree that represents your birth constellation is supposed to be beneficial. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 2011.
The Foundation has many projects lined up—including similar parks for senior citizens at Pune, Thane and Nashik. It is also coming up with a ‘virtual nana-nani park’, one of its most ambitious projects yet. This will help the Foundation to reach out to senior citizens via the Internet. Senior citizens will get access to these nana-nani parks via a free membership card issued by the Foundation after they provide proof of their identity, age and address. Members are also provided a medical card. A special membership card which will offer discounts at grocery stores, chemist shops, hospitals, shopping malls and tourism companies is also being planned. This project is expected to kick off in early 2012, after various strategic alliances are finalised, and after proper infrastructure is set up.
But all these activities will take some time—and effort—to be completed. According to Mr Singhania, convincing donors and raising funds is a major challenge for the Foundation. “Getting garden land approved from the (Brihanmumbai) Municipal Corporation and raising funds for development and maintenance is, indeed, the most difficult task for the Foundation.” The Foundation is always looking for volunteers and specialists who are willing to work for the elderly. NNF is also working on a legal cell for senior citizens; it has been in active touch with the heads of legal departments of various companies to carry forward this effort. Initially, NNF was privately funded by the Singhania family and companies of the Enarr group. But Dena Bank, Union Bank of India and Bank of India have come forward to aid this effort. Eureka Forbes is another supporter. NNF also raises funds through music concerts and cricket matches.
Donations to the Foundation are tax-exempt under Section 80 (G) of the Income-Tax Act. NNF has an excellent website with details telling you how to donate. You can also contact NNF if you want to volunteer in any way.