Seventy two-year-old Muthuswamy is a loner and lives by himself. His sons live away from him and thus the loneliness was making him very depressed. But all thanks to Kiran Bhanaut and Sushma Bhanot as their Great British Chai Party has made Muthuswamy fight out his loneliness and is a much happier person.
The Great British Chai Party set up in London by Kiran and Sushma founded this club which helps combat social isolation and loneliness among the ageing population of not just Indians but even of other Londoners too.
“Our goal is to organise the tea parties as a platform to support our older population” says the founder Kiran Bhanaut
According to a survey conducted in 2021, About 5.7 per cent of the country’s senior citizens live on their own without the support of family or friends. Due to this, elderly folks usually are found confined to their homes and can go weeks or even months without seeing anyone. In most cases, television serves as their only window to the outside world. All this leads to mental illnesses and loneliness amongst the elderly.
Older people who stay alone are more prone to increased health risks due to negligence. Isolation and loneliness in seniors go hand-in-hand with old age and these conditions are becoming more and more common. Experts have cited that loneliness is the biggest killer for these elderly.
The Great British Chai Party was created as a way to bring people from different cultures together. Kiran and Sushma live in London and have seen a large that many of the elderly community live alone there. Thus, they realised that this was an issue that needed to be addressed as well as that there was a rising incidence of mental diseases and loneliness among the elderly.
People have drank tea throughout history and connected with one another to form friendships or provide solace. Tea drinking has broken down barriers even when language is a problem.
Sushma Bhanot has extensive experience working with the elderly and is a licenced pharmacist, researcher in Ayurveda, and author.
Previously employed by the Department of Education as a senior project manager, Kiran Bhanaut is now a self-employed project management consultant for health and safety and IT services. Kiran has a wealth of experience working with local communities, particularly with elderly residents.
“Our chai party has a simple purpose of bringing the lonely elderly out of their depression. Chai parties have made them express their feelings. It also hopes to provide a purpose for a more meaningful life for our elderly and help facilitate friendships in the elderly and something for them to look forward to.” says the founder Kiran Bhanaut
“In one of our chai parties, we have asked them to give speeches. So they came up with a talk about the important role women have played at home, at work and in the communities all their lives and continue to do so as they age by guiding and helping their children, grandchildren as well.as friends and family.”
During the Diwali party, Kiran and Sushma distributed gifts to acknowledge the elderly women. The bag included a beautiful candle which when lit symbolizes hope, optimism and faith. Each woman is a ray of light who connects everyone around her to believe in themselves as well as those around them for the betterment of society.
Though Kiran Bhanaut and Sushma Bhanot, are Indian-born but they are trying to include elderly from London, irrespective of nationality. During the pandemic, these co-founders of The British Chai Party, distributed Diwali hampers in East and West London. The Diwali hampers have been delivered at the doorsteps of elderly homes.
Since the first lockdown, Sushma and Kiran have played a crucial role in keeping the elderly community active by organising Zoom meetings with the elderly, allowing them to socialise with others by sharing songs, poems, etc. They are dedicated to holding more similar events to combat elderly loneliness and isolation.
The British Chai Party is growing day by day as more and more people are reaching out to it. The elderly community looks forward for these chai breaks with a lot of hope and excitement.
“I have been living alone after my wife passed away for the last 10 years. I was always feeling depressed and was waiting to die someday as I didn’t have anything to look forward to life.
The British Chai Party has come a long way since the time it has been founded. Now Chai Party has been collaborating with other organisations like Ayurveda and Yoga institutes to enhance the overall health of the elderly.