Senior citizens find ‘their’ India in the Bay Area

After their kids have gone to work and grandchildren have gone to school, Indian senior citizens in the Bay Area are discovering a vibrant life at the India Community Center.

Ravi Chopra looks forward to his drive to Milpitas every morning of the week. The 77-year-old is a retired major-general from the Indian Army, and visits the India Community Center, a nonprofit organization. He never misses a single day.

India Community Center is aimed at bringing together the large Indian populace in the Bay Area, and it offers activities for everyone right from the age of five to the elderly. It was set up in 2003 with the help of Indian-American entrepreneur brothers, Anil and Gautam Godhwani.

Chopra, along with hundreds of other senior citizens, participate in the senior citizens program at the facility.

“I’ve been associated with the India Community Center for 17-18 years. This place offers avenues for people of our age; we can meet new people, talk, participate in events, and keep our physical and mental faculties intact,” said Chopra, whose wife is also a member.

The program offers a variety of activities, including yoga, Bollywood dance classes, karaoke sessions, bridge games and discussions. Additionally, seniors can work out in the gym, play a game of pool, read newspapers or books, and even get free legal and medical counseling sessions.

“When people step inside this building, they feel like they are in India now,” said Pragati Grover, executive director of India Community Center, which also has a center in Cupertino. For seniors, especially, this is extremely important. “After the kids have gone to work and grandchildren have gone to school, there is nobody to talk to [for these senior citizens]. Here in ICC, they get to meet people. They can be free here. And after the program, they talk to each other, become friends and start going out as well,” said Vimala Balan, who is a coordinator at the Cupertino center.

For Harshad Saparia, this space means a lot more. Saparia had a stroke more than two years ago. Along with medicines and therapy sessions, it was the support of the seniors that helped him bounce back. “I had forgotten to even count to ten. I had to learn everything from scratch. Thanks to the encouragement from the seniors here, and the exercises and yoga, I now drive here by myself,” he said, smiling with pride.

For the seniors who frequent the facility, the members are just like family. They talk, play, sing, dance and eat together. “I don’t know what we would do without the India Community Center,” Chopra said.

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