Neten Dorji | Khaling

Bumpa Dema, 78, does not have a child. At the age of 50, she lost her husband. Back then, it was challenging for a widow to adjust to society. Whenever she was ill, the burden fell to her neighbour. 

“I was hospitalised for more than a year. There was no one to look after me. Life was tough,” she reminisces. 

She moved to the senior citziens’ home at Barshong Gonpa in Khaling a year ago. There today, she lives a serene and spiritual life.

“This place is perfect,” she said. “I feel very lucky.”

Like Bumpa Dema, there were about 40 who live in gonpas reciting prayers. 

Kelzang Dorji, 72, says that one of the most important reasons he chose to live in a senior citizens’ home in Barshong is that the monastery is nearby.

Barshong Gonpa

“It takes me 20 minutes to go to the monastery to offer prayers every day,” he said. “It is not that children are not taking care of me. While living with children, I do not get time to recite prayers and get in touch with spirituality.”

Kelzang Wangmo, who has been living at gonpa for more than a decade, says that senior citizens’ home has been a great help for nuclear families. “Nowadays most families are nuclear but there is still a compulsion to earn. They have no time to spend with the elderly or care for them.”

Another senior citizen, Sangay Tshomo, said they are provided free meals and clothing. “I really appreciate help from the centre’s staff. They also take us for medical treatment on time.”

Barshong Monastery operates senior citizens’ home.

Sonam Wangchuk, who looks after senior citizens in Barshong Monastry, says that the place is equipped with an outdoor gym, prayer hall, and the staff also organise various religious activities. 

“This is a place for people who have sufferings in life beyond their control and those who wish to live here and recite prayers. The monastery also provides key services like free meals and accommodation,” said Sonam Wangchuk. “Old age home sounds like a place for cast-off. Here, it is different. It’s about care; it’s about love” 

The monastery has set up a 30 senior room home, about 20 km from Kanglung for senior citizens. 

“The purpose of senior citizens is to keep elders engaged in various activities and, more importantly, to let them retire to a peaceful and content living,” said Sonam Wangchuk.