70-Year-Old Natubhai Patel is a retired government employee from Gujarat who is helping several single seniors to combat loneliness and depression through finding a suitable partner for marriage or live-in relationship.
As per 2011 census results, there are nearly 104 million elderly (aged 60 years or above) in India and it is said to increase to 173 million by 2026. The reports also suggest that 4.6% of the population is widow with women outnumbering the men. Old age comes with its issues and one of the biggest is the loneliness associated with it. When a partner passes away or when the children are too busy in their lives, one may experience a huge void. Natubhai Patel’s initiative is to fill that void and allow seniors to live a happier longer life.
It all started when on January 26, 2001, a massive earthquake struck in Bhuj, Gujarat, which shook the entire state. Natubhai was working with Central Government in the Ministry of Planning Department in Kutch. He escaped the calamity as it was a holiday and he wasn’t there. It was then, when he saw several families breaking due to the disaster that he felt the need to start a platform for those who lost their partners to nature’s disaster.
In 2002, he established ‘Vina Mulya Amulya Seva – Anubandh Foundation’. Soon there were people of all ages walking in to seek a companion for themselves. Natubhai was happily surprised to see that there were quite a good number of senior citizens looking for partners. It made him realize that seniors needed this more than youngsters. They needed someone who could care for them and be a constant companion as their children get busy and they face a lot of loneliness. Hence, the foundation started working on senior re-marriages. Anubandh Foundation has conducted 55 sammelans (marriage fairs) and 148 senior marriages (55-85 years) in the last 16 years.
“A right partner in one’s life can extend at least 5-6 years of their life span.”
Natubhai’s aim is to remove the taboo in the Indian society about re-marriages in older couples. He urges youngsters and older adults to look at this with a positive mindset and give senior citizens a chance to live a happy life with a companion again as everyone has a right to be happy, regardless of age. He believes a right partner in one’s life can extend at least 5-6 years of their life span.
For those who do not wish to get married, but seek companionship, Natubhai’s foundation also organizes live-in relationship sammelans, where people can find a partner to live in together. This arrangement also saves them from any legal and financial obligation on the property and other responsibilities. Live-in relationships in India were seen from a disapproving position, but after the Supreme Court’s judgment stating that live-in relationship is not an offense for unmarried adults, the outlook on that among the population is changing. Anubandh Foundation organized its first live-in relationship sammelan in 2010, which observed 300 men and 70 women.
A lot of times, Indian single seniors discard the idea of remarrying or being in a live relationship due to societal pressure; considering it shameful, embarrassing for children, a threat to asset distribution, etc. Such inhibitions push them to a lonely life, where their children are away and they rely on servants or caretakers feeling lonely and aloof.
“Loneliness is a slow poison!”
Loneliness is a slow poison, Natubhai says. In some cases, depression due to loneliness has also resulted in extreme measures like suicide. It also paves way for memory disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, he thinks that things are changing and re-marriages are becoming more acceptable in today’s world.
Natubhai believes that love has no age and there should not be any embarrassment in looking for love in older years. He says that it not only reduces loneliness and depression but also helps one live a longer, healthier and happier life. He aims to bring about a change in the societal mindset through his foundation.
“While a mother could take care of 5 children, the five of them could not take care of their only mother.”
He recalls an incident where a woman was brought to him who had 5 children, who abandoned her after her husband died. Natubhai emotionally shares that while a mother could take care of 5 children, the five of them could not take care of their only mother. This is where the foundation helped her in getting a new partner who could be by her side and guess what, she is happily living now, sharing her life with a companion she married. He condemns the likes of such children and urges them to not make their parents’ name added to the wait list of old age homes rather help them in finding a new companion.
HappyAging is proud to share Natubhai and Anubandh Foundation’s story and urges all see the world through his eyes. It is for those who held our hands and never left us alone when we were growing up and for those who need to be held when they are alone. After all love is love and everyone regardless of age deserves it. If you are a single older adult or have a single parent or grandparent, watch this video: A little change in mindset can give you or your loved ones a happier life and a chance at love.
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