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Walking towards hope

R Sriram Srinivas, who has multiple disabilities—mental retardation and spastic diplegia—takes a breather during his yoga session at home. P Settu, his yoga therapist, who has been teaching Sriram two years now, says that Sriram used to be inattentive and restless, but now follows instructions well and has mellowed down significantly.  



Images and text by Naveen P M

Walking towards hope (2/9)

M Vanitha, Sriram's teacher, helps Sriram wear his dance apparel before the start of the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' at Don Guanella Special School in Chennai. Due to Sriram's condition, simple tasks such as putting on clothes can become a chore and he often ends up needing some assistance. 


Walking towards hope (3/9)

Sriram rides his bicycle—fitted with a custom-made backrest—flanked by special education teacher, G V Arumugam. Arumugam has known Sriram for 15 years and was initially hired to teach him basic reading and writing skills. On Sriram's parents' request, he started to assist Sriram in walking and then taught him how to ride a bicycle so he could improve his muscle tone. 

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (4/9)

R Devi helps Sriram read a clock at Sai Sri Ram Training Centre. Sriram has difficulty reading and writing even basic words, and has a hard time grasping universal concepts such as time, date, and money. Devi is Sriram's favorite teacher. Sai Sri Ram Training Centre has eight students with special needs, two teachers, and a domestic help. The school functions from 10 am to 3 pm and keeps the students busy with a plethora of activities such as coloring, computer games, and yoga.


Walking towards hope (5/9)

M R Karthik, physical trainer, subjects Sriram to one of the many "balancing exercises" to improve his balance and correct his "scissor gait". Karthik has been training Sriram for the last two years. "In the beginning, Sriram could hardly stand for a minute on his own and displayed a lot of traits commonly seen in persons with Intellectual Disability (ID), such as lack of eye contact, droning, drooling...," says Karthik.

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (6/9)

Sriram and his classmates from Sai Sri Ram Training Centre perform to a medley of Bollywood songs at the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' held in Don Guanella Special School, Chennai. P Dharani Kumar, a professional choreographer, composed the dance moves for this performance. He visits the school every weekend to teach dance to these students. "Sriram usually has trouble recollecting and executing my dance moves but he stepped his game up through some spontaneous moves," he said. 

Read Sriram's story here

Walking towards hope (7/9)

Sriram is ecstatic after receiving a silver medal for the Standing Long Jump event. His driver, D Alvin (right), and Sriram's mother, R Vanitha, gather around to congratulate him, at the Special Olympics Sports Meet held on YMCA Grounds, Chennai. Sriram shares a special bond with Alvin and the two can often be seen engaging in healthy banter. 


Walking towards hope (8/9)

Sriram does a lap of backstroke at The League Club, Chennai. His parents introduced him to swimming at the age of seven after a doctor suggested hydropathy as treatment. Sriram has been training under U Sathish Kumar, swim coach for children with special needs, for one year now. Sriram won four gold medals in as many events at two swim meets for para-athletes held last year in Tamil Nadu.


Walking towards hope (9/9)

Dr J Paul Devasagayam, Area Director, Special Olympics Bharat, Tamil Nadu, reviews Sriram Srinivas's progress with his mother, R Vanitha, during one of their monthly meetings at his 100-square-foot office in Purasawalkam, Chennai.


What can you do to enhance wellbeing in the elderly?

We can work towards not just associating ageing with deteriorating health and shrinking social circles.
Dr Garima Srivastava

Ageing involves physical, cognitive, social and familial losses and brings with it an increased incidence of disability and the need for assistance with activities of daily living. While there is a lot of emphasis on the physical well-being of older people, the same emphasis or importance has not been placed on their mental health and wellbeing. Research shows that having negative perceptions of ageing have also been associated with poorer functioning and increased mortality (Levy et al. 2002). Promoting successful ageing is an important part of maintaining physical and mental wellbeing in the elderly.

Some issues that the elderly face include grief, bereavement, isolation (social & geographic), poor health status, inadequate social support networks (weak, dysfunctional), inadequate or conflicted social environment in their current living situation.

Some of the ways in which wellbeing can be enhanced among the elderly include:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle: Including physical activity, especially in later life is central to improving physical and mental health, because regular exercise positively effects general health, mobility and independence, and is associated with a reduced risk of depression and anxiety. Exercise also enhances mood and improves self-esteem.  Any form of physical activity is good to begin with, e.g., walking, gardening, dancing, walking the dog, or participating in organized or competitive sport. At an older age, incorporating good nutrition can help not only curb chronic diseases but also helps in aiding in recovery from illnesses.

  • Staying meaningfully active by working, either in a paid or voluntary capacity, is good for the health of the elderly as it helps them feel a sense of goodwill that comes from contributing to society. This is also seen to have an impact on older people’s economic circumstances and on their ability to participate in the society (Marmot et al. 2003).

  • Strengthening social networks helps connect older people across different age groups and enable more care within and for the community. E.g., a lot of residential societies have book clubs that organise weekly story-reading sessions for the elderly by younger volunteers.

  • Maintaining social interaction: Since social isolation and loneliness negatively affect both physical and mental health, particularly among older adults, it becomes all the more important to encourage social support to foster wellbeing through building relationships. Some steps towards this could include connecting regularly with friends and family, making an effort to make new friends and finding a support group in times of change (especially if you are undergoing health or bereavement-related issues, connecting with others who could be experiencing something similar to what you are experiencing may help ease the pain).

Even though old age is often associated with life changes that may be difficult to cope with and may generate feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair, proactive handholding by others in the community can help the elderly manage negative feelings or low moods more easily.

References: Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Karsi, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 261- 270.


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