Growing Old in India


I have, for a long time been photographing around aspects of a changing India. These images, currently being syndicated, show a gentle side of a huge demographic change in that country. It is estimated that by 2020, the elderly population in India will nearly double to 150 million people. Better medical care and low fertility rates have made the elderly the fastest growing section of society. New wealth and urbanisation are starting to erode the foundations of traditional values and kinship. Today fewer than 40 percent of Indians live in so-called “joint families” where brothers share the family home with their parents even after they are married. In a country where only 10 per cent has any form of pension, “old people have to work till they die” says Mathew Cherian, Help Age India’s chief executive. Even specialised medical care is rare, as India has only two medical colleges in the entire country teaching geriatric care. After the Asian Tsunami, HelpAge India set up a pioneering experimental scheme called the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village (TEV) in Tamil Nadu that initially cared for elderly people displaced by the tragedy. Today, the village is a self-sustaining community providing a family environment where more able-bodied residents assist the less able-bodied. The village provides 100 older people with a safe place to live, free healthcare, emotional security, a good diet and professional support.

I was fortunate enough to visit for a few days and make some work there. Work that for personal reasons has an enormous resonance for me.

Despite great effort (especially on the part of Jon Jones at the Sunday Times Magazine) they remain unpublished. Of all the stories that I have shot over the last few years, I really want to see this run somewhere: not because my images are so wonderful but rather because of what they show and the issue that they address.

My agency, Panos is syndicating a 35 image set that can be viewed here.

Here are seven of my favourites.



India – Tamil Nadu – Meena, 65 pretends to hit a male nurse with a crutch after he teased Janagi, 76 who is always cleaning around the village. Tamaraikulum Elders village, Tamil Nadu, India


India – Tamil Nadu – Manjani, 75 inside his room.


India – Tamil Nadu – An elderly resident shares a joke with her social worker in her room.


India – Tamil Nadu – Ganapadi and his wife, Khrisaveni residents in their room.


India – Tamil Nadu – A daily exercise class for residents.


India – Tamil Nadu – An elderly resident stretches and takes the morning air at dawn by the lake at the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village


India – Tamil Nadu – Meena, 65, an elderly resident, makes a fuss of one of the villages two dogs