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Pandemic stories, often horrifying, have come out in a strugglers-of-the-day format consistently for the past two years now. One such story, sharing the theme of disruption to normalcy and solitude, is of senior citizens whose children live abroad.

This population niche of aged citizens has struggled because they have had no caretakers due to the absence of their children. Resultantly, they have pinned their hopes on institutions providing services, solely to older citizens, such as house cleaning, food preparation, and provision of medicines.

Muhammad Sarfraz Khan, who lives with his wife, is one such individual. The 80-year-old is a resident of Shadman Lahore and his children reside out of Pakistan with their families. Khan informed The Express Tribune that he had fallen prey to the superspreader two months ago along with his still-recovering wife. “We had a female maid to do our housework but once we got sick she abandoned us,” he said. Khan lamented how due to the maid’s departure both his and his wife’s routine-life was affected. “The children would phone every day to ask about the situation, but they could not come to Pakistan,” a distraught Khan reflected.

In the excruciating circumstances, Khan’s ray of hope was a private organisation providing errand-running and house chores services. “They made it easy for us, for instance if we wanted something from the market, they were just a phone call away. They provided a nurse and their employees came to clean the house, cook, and wash the clothes,” said Khan.

Read Abandoned by families, elderly women find shelter

Even though the services were costly, at a time when his children could not visit and no one was ready to work, Khan was left with no other option.

Abu Bakr, a Lahore-based representative of a private organization that provides such services, told The Express Tribune that they are currently operating in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi. “Our 24 hour service covers everything from emergencies to extreme household chores. Most of our clients are overseas Pakistanis whose parents reside here and they cannot come to their parents due to travel restrictions and they need reliable employees to serve their parents,” said Abu Bakr.

Abu Bakr said his company has registered with various doctors, nurses, paramedics, housemaids, plumbers, maids, cooks, drivers, and riders providing outdoor services. Talking about the company’s business-model, Abu Bakr said they charge a registration fee and security deposit of $100 for getting services from his company. “Other charges like grocery, cost of goods, and service charges are very low and they are paid by the client when service has been rendered,” he added.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are NGOs and young volunteers that have come forward to serve senior citizens in their neighborhood and societies without any compensation. Alina Azhar, head of a Lahore-based NGO, while talking to The Express Tribune said that during the pandemic, she and her friends started delivering essential items to senior citizens stuck at home. “So far we have provided services to about 50 people who are either single or have children abroad. We met with these people and gave them our contact number and told them that they can call us in any emergency and to order anything they need,” claimed Azhar.

The only thing missing from volunteer-services that the private sector provides is people to do household chores. However, according to Azhar, her team visits the homes of individuals under their care for a short time daily to inquire about their condition. “This gives them courage, encouragement, and a sense of having family,” Azhar told The Express Tribune.

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