With the 60+ age group making up half of the coronavirus fatalities in Bangladesh, the retirement homes in the country are at high risk of becoming hotspots for infection.
People aged 60 or above make a small part of the confirmed cases in the country but their underlying health conditions make their mortality rate high.
The concept of old home is not very well established in Bangladesh. There are a few establishments such as the ‘Probin Hitoishi Sangha’ which provides housing and community support at a government-subsidised rate.
All the care homes have been set up voluntarily. There is no official data about the number of retirement homes and their residents.
Many of these care homes are also facing fund crunch, making the situation worse for their residents.
Apon Nibash Old Home, run by a charity, is situated at Mainartek of Uttar Khan in Dhaka. Its founder Sayeda Selina Selly told UNB that she established it in 2010 to give shelter to homeless old women.
Currently, Apon Nibash has 75 residents – many of them physically-challenged.
"Initially, I operated the Old Home with my income, which I was earned through my job. Then, locals and from time to time, some rich people and private organisations have been assisting us," she said.
But the announcement of general holidays and marking Bangladesh as vulnerable to coronavirus infection saw the assistances dry up, Sely said.
The holidays started from March 26 and later extended to April 25. but given the worsening situation, the holidays and strict restriction on movement will likely be extended well into May.
Sely said she is worried about the residents of Apon Nibash as all are 60 and above.
Another retirement home – Old Rehabilitation Centre – is situated in Gazipur. It was established by the founder Chairman and Managing Director of Givensee Group of Industries Ltd Khatib Abdul Zahid Mukul in 1987.
Initially, it was set up on a rented premise with a view to mitigating the sufferings of helpless old people of 60 years and above. It was later shifted to its own land of almost 100 bighas located at Bishia, Kuribari, Monipur, Gazipur in 1994.
Though the "Old Rehabilitation Centre" is not facing any financial problem, authorities have been very worried as all of the 184 senior citizens, both male and female, are vulnerable. Presently, the centre has capacity to accommodate 1,200 senior citizens aged 60 and above.
Jahangir Alam, manager of the centre, told UNB that they locked down the centre on Mach 20 to protect its residents. He said they are worried about the old residents, many of whom have underlying medical conditions.
Probin Bhaban, the only old home in Dhaka, was established in 1960 at Agargaon. It is an autonomous organisation run by the donations of the Health and Social Welfare Ministry. It can accommodate 200 old people.
Contacted, Badrul Ahsan, Deputy Director (Admin) of the Old home, said they, too, are worried about their senior citizens. “We’re not allowing any visitor since the government announced the general holiday,” he said.
Though there is no government owned dedicated Old Home in the country, there are 85 'Shishu Paribar' or shelter homes, which also can accommodate senior citizens. Each Shishu Paribar is equipped to host 10 senior citizens, said Sheikh Rafikul Islam, Director General of the Department of Social Services.
He said they have already directed all Shishu Paribar to the senior citizens isolated and ensure that no one can go outside without urgent reason.
“We’re worried about the overall situation and trying to protect the people,” Islam said.