Ever since the lockdown in New Zealand was announced over two months ago, Shanti Niwas ramped up its digital services and virtual activities to keep in close contact with its senior citizens who feared to lose in touch with their senior mates and to catch the Coronavirus.

Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust, the organisation, working towards the wellbeing of the senior citizens of the Asian and Indian community was given the status of ‘essential services’ and continued its programmes and events virtually to keep in touch with its senior members.

“I can confirm that we have done more activities in the last two months of different levels of lockdown virtually that we could have imagined,” Nilima Venkat, General Manager of Shanti Niwas told the Indian Weekender.

In the initial days of the Covid lockdown, seniors feared being left out with nothing much to do at home, losing in touch with senior mates and doing activities that engage them.

Shanti Niwas devised new programmes, both fun, and engaging activities so that seniors at home do not feel lonely, out of purpose and keep themselves occupied.

“Besides hosting cooking competitions, share a story, share a fun activity on Whatsapp groups and zoom, we also created ‘Sab ka Saath- All together’, an online chat show hosted by a renowned community radio jockey in the evening hours from Monday to Friday.

“Through this show, we were able to get the seniors to share their talents, experiences, have a dialogue addressing their issues and also connect with different people in the community such as doctors, police, politicians etc. for information,” Ms Venkat said.

Shanti Niwas also organised online fashion competition that garnered over 50 entries and a lot of community interest and participation.

With a number of programs and activities and through word of mouth, some seniors from overseas approached Shanti Niwas to join and participate in its day to day virtual events.

“We are registered with a number of government bodies that enables us to reach out to the appropriate authorities for help, if needed and four our seniors distressed by different factors.

“We have visiting services, elder abuse response programs, temporary accommodation for safety of elders abused, registered for social support for South Asian patients via DHBs, etc.,” Ms Venkat added.

Shanti Niwas also partnered with grocery stores to deliver essential groceries for seniors unable to travel and buy independently, home deliveries of medicines required by some needy seniors, and made calls to approximately 350 seniors on a weekly basis to check if they were doing okay, are vulnerable, socially isolated etc. and give them necessary assistance.

Ms Venkat added that during the Covid lockdown period, there was an increase in referrals on elder abuse which was handled by its social workers and volunteers providing them with emergency housing, financial, grocery deliveries and counselling services.

“We have transitioned into extraordinary times that has made us technologically more equipped, especially seniors and at the moment, we intend to keep our services virtual and hope to open the centre for senior citizens soon,” Ms Venkat added.