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Parathi's story

"I love to dance", Parathi tells me as she pulls her bright purple sari back over her head to shade her face from the relentless sun. Grabbing her friends hand, they dash outside to showcase their moves. They couldn't have found a more captive audience. It is seeing and joining in with the hobbies, laughter and spirit of the women I meet that I love the most.

Parathi is only 62 years old, but she looks much older. I am not surprised. She has already had a lifetimes worth of tragedy. Widowed five years ago, she then lost her son-in-law just months later. The men work hard and they drink too much. There is little access to health care and even then it is unaffordable. Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar story within these communities.

With the charity's support, the women over 60 (you are old-aged once you hit 60 here!) have formed a group. Once a month a doctor, provided by the charity, comes to see them. The doctor takes the women's blood pressure and checks for diabetes. The charity also gives out blankets in the winter for warmth.

This is just the material and physical support. What I have noticed from all the self help groups I have visited over the past few weeks, is that it is the emotional support, the networks and the friendships which have the greatest impact.

Older women like Parathi have an excuse to leave their homes. They meet with other women and talk about their problems. They laugh, they gossip and sometimes they dance. It's a gift that money cannot buy. These groups help keep spirits up, they give people a reason to get up every day which helps them lead more active, happier and healthier lives.

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