For 60-year-old Lathika Divakaran, it was a long-time wish to obtain a Class 10 pass certificate. She achieved it a year ago with the help of her friends in a senior citizens forum called Synergy based in Kerala’s Kottayam. Lathika, probably the first woman mason in Kerala, is now working on her next mission – completing Class 12.
80-year-old Sisiliamma Sebastian has published two novels, again with the help of Synergy, and she can still hardly believe she has achieved her dream.
“Here we grow together without the age barrier and do everything that we love to do with the support, encouragement and compassion of the group,” says 69-year-old Molly Thomas, a retired government employee and an active member of the group.
Their experiences prove that Synergy is not just a recreational forum but a group for likeminded people to grow irrespective of their age.
Molly believes that living happily, healthily and peacefully at any age is better than getting younger.
Synergy’s chief executive Colonel Mathew Murikken explains how the organisation is like a family for him.
“I was in north India throughout my service period. When my wife and I returned to Kerala after my retirement, we felt so lonely. But once we became a part of Synergy, we got a good circle of friends,” he says.
Five years ago, former National Service Scheme Program Coordinator C Thomas Abraham conducted a Theme Centred Interaction (TCI, a concept aimed at social learning and self-development) workshop in MG University. The theme was ‘Ageing gracefully, living meaningfully’. Influenced by the workshop, one of the attendees, MC Joseph Mukkadan, and a few others gathered later at Thomas Abraham’s house.
Slowly their numbers increased and Synergy was formed, based on the TCI concept, in Kottayam’s Kumaranelloor. Since then, they gather the second Tuesday of every month to share their thoughts, dreams, goals, to laugh, dance, sing and do whatever they love to do.
The group now has 60 members. “Here we concentrate on personality development by achieving what we wish for. We are likeminded people, with similar views about life. We all come from different socio-economic backgrounds, but we are all equal here. We help each other grow and live gracefully. Religion, political differences, economic status, none of them are barriers between us,” MC Joseph tells TNM.
Anybody can express even their smallest dream in the Synergy gatherings and get support to achieve it. Whether it is to sing, dance, act or write.
Many in the group had a hidden passion to dance. Earlier they didn’t get a chance to perform or even learn. They never thought of dancing after retirement, but the wish remained deep inside and Synergy made it possible.
“Now we have a troupe of 20 members, we conduct dance classes twice a week. Almost all of them participate regularly. They even performed on stage for our anniversary,” says Ramesh Babu, the troupe’s organiser.
Synergy also has a ‘Pattu koottam’ (song group) where those interested can sing.
Reading forum is another section that the members love. “In the forum, members can discuss the books they read. Or discuss anything related to books and authors. We also have a circulation library so we get to read more books,” MC Joseph says.
Synergy publishes a magazine regularly in which members can publish their write-ups, whether it’s a poem, story, novel, essay or any thoughts.
A number of books have been published by Synergy. Nagarathile Kutti, Dyana Vazhiyile Mozhimuthukal, Anpatham Pirannal, Bhoomiyile Swargam and Thalakettatha Jeevitham are a few among them.
Travelling is another activity that Synergy members have been doing, never letting their age or other barriers stop them.
“Our recent trip was on last Thursday to Dhanushkodi. 80-year-old Amminiamma was the oldest who joined the trip. It was her wish to visit the Rameswaram temple. Although she has a few health issues, we were there to support and care for her. We have gone on a number of trips across India,” Molly says.
If it is not financially feasible for someone to go on a trip, others help them.
Every Synergy session is a celebration for the members, usually consisting of a TCI workshop, some games, leisure time, discussions and debate.
Synergy’s most recent venture is an academy that will train unprivileged children and help them with their education.
These senior citizens do not want to spend their old age inside their homes, holding back all their dreams. They want to fly and chase their dreams