I used to feel awkward going to outlets of cafe chains because they are full of young people. I would feel really out of place,” says Dr ST Acharyulu, a retired professor. That’s a sentiment echoed by many senior citizens in the city, who find it difficult to fit into new-age cafes with their hip crowd and uber cool decor.
Take 67-year-old Dr Subhash Heremat for instance, who regularly visited the quaint India Coffee House on MG Road. After it was shifted to Church Street, Heremat found it had lost its appeal and stopped visiting it. “Many of the old patrons, some of whom are my friends, don’t visit the new one that often. The new Coffee House is smaller in size and there also too many new faces, all youngsters. We feel a little out of place.” Yet, according to him, retired folks need to socialise as much as the young.
“Catching up with your friends in a non-intimidating space makes a huge difference,” he says.
Dignity Foundation, a non-profit organisation working with the elderly, has tapped into this need and has launched a new chain of cafes-cum-clubs called Dignity Coffee Chavadi that promises to provide venues for senior citizens to socialise at. The concept kicked off in Mumbai in 2005, where it is known by the name Dignity Chai Masti Club. In Bangalore, however, the club was rechristened as Dignity Coffee Chavadi as coffee is more popular down south.
“Chavadi means a stone platform outside a house, a village hall or a gathering place,” says NB Jayaprakash, honorary director of the Dignity Foundation. With Coffee Chavadi, they intended to “create a platform for the seniors”, he explains.
Retired Army officer Nagaraj Rao, who has been to a Coffee Chavadi, feels it is a great forum for people his age. “It is not fair that there are plenty of places for youngsters to meet at but very few for the old. India Coffee House was one of them. But now even that has been shifted and does not hold the same emotional value. I am glad that Dignity Foundation has taken this initiative,” says Rao.
This club, meant for people over the age of 50, has created a space for them to bond over a good cup of coffee and participate in many activities tailored for them. The first Dignity Coffee Chavadi opened in Cox Town in January this year. It has branches in Hebbal, Magadi Road and a recently opened one in Jayanagar. The Dignity Foundation plans to establish at least 20 more centres in the city.
“We aim to set up many more centres to make a Chavadi accessible to old people everywhere in the city, as commuting long distances is usually a problem for most of them,” says Jayaprakash.
Coffee Chavadi is open every day between 4pm and 6pm and offers coffee alongside entertainment such as film screenings, old film songs, quizzes, cooking classes, painting lessons and even some Tai-Chi. “It has a really nice atmosphere. One visit to this place and you’ll feel like you belong there. It is very different from the other cafes in Bangalore as there is a personal touch, which makes you feel at home,” says Dr Jayashree, an active member of Coffee Chavadi.
“Further, small things such as winning a game organised at Chavadi gives you a sense of achievement. We really look forward to coming here,” adds Jayashree.
Furthermore, Dignity Foundation has also incorporated a unique concept called ‘Surakshabandhana’, which gives grandparents an opportunity to spend time with their grandchildren. “With the disintegration of the joint family system, many youngsters have lost touch with the older generation. This concept will help bridge the generation gap that makes most senior citizens feel alienated and emotionally estranged,” says Jayaprakash.
Nevertheless, there remain a few old-time joints in the city such as Koshys that still make senior citizens feel welcome.
“Koshy’s has been in Bangalore for the past three generations and the older people feel at home when they come here. They are the real architects of our restaurant,” says Prem Koshy, MD, Koshys.
“They have a number of groups and they constantly change their circles. They discuss religion, politics, culture, science — almost everything under the sun! Our oldest customer is 83 and there is a popular joke amongst them that if they miss their daily repartee at Koshy's, they are either out of town or dangerously ill!”
Dignity Foundation can be contacted at 080 41511307.