Care of senior citizens

Before giving an evasive reply that you don't have time and resource to take care of your elders, don't forget that your parents and elders had contributed far more to groom you than you've to incur today. Uma, a housewife's terse comment to a chat show on elderly care, aired on K.A.T.H. 97.9 FM

The world is aging without dignity. Forty per cent of 550 million world's population over 60 are living under the mark of absolute poverty without any care, dignity, self-fulfillment, social activism and independence. They are a little better than logs because they are living!

The number of senior citizens is increasing with the medical advancement, and will reach 1.2 billion in another 25 years. This will have a spiraling effects on every aspect of our social life.

Recently, a news feature from Reuters landed on my table. The report dealt with the post-retirement financial harvest of the powerful and famous people in the West like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former US President George Bush, former President of the then Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gulf War heroes Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf etc. who are lucky enough to earn tens of thousands of dollars for speaking engagements.

I laughed at myself, comparing the great celebrities above with millions of aged people in developing countries who are not even entitled to a meal a day, leave alone heath care, dignified living and other entertainments!

A few years back, Nepalese government has started honoring senior citizens of the country, by making a meager payment of US$2 a month which is hardly adequate to buy 7 liters of milk. Imagine the plight of millions around the globe!

In his regular column one Saturday, noted Indian writer Khushwant Singh, in his 80s, recited a very ingenious form of beggary practiced by an obliged elderly woman outside the British and Canadian Embassies in New Delhi. She lures the visa-aspirants, putting forth her plight, “Sons, you will soon be going abroad. Who will look after your old mother after you leave for there? Give her something by which she can pass the days remaining to her.”

With the advent of nuclear family culture from the West, most of the elders in the urban areas of the developing countries have to live a difficult solitary life, and make a similar plight as the elderly beggar. It's pity!

On the other hand, there is a growing tendency of ignoring the senior citizens as insane, unproductive leeches. As a matter of fact, 5 per cent of all work of genius have been done after the age of 80.

Rodin, the sculptor, did some of his finest works after 70. Michelangelo was 70 when he painted the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Verdi composed the opera Otello at 75 and Falstaff at 80. Anatole France at 80 and Thomas Hardy at 88 were in the full flush of literary creation. At 98, Titan painted the Battle of Lepanto.

Conferences, publications, studies and coordinating bodies have hardly contributed for the improvement of the condition of senior citizens at the grassroots.

In view of the potential threat to social balance due to growing ignorance of the senior citizens worldwide, Movement Millennium has chosen the care of the aged and active aging as one of the grassroots activities in a bid to revitalize the sentiments of the International Year of Older Persons beyond 1999. Remember, all of us has to grow old one day or other.

What can you do?

  1. Each one look after your elderly. If you don't have an elderly person in your family, adopt one in your neighborhood. They could be happy to entertain your children as storytellers while sharing joys of life.
  2. Avoid denouncing them as insane, unproductive leeches. Provide them with an opportunity. Ask whether they could do simple jobs like gardening or salesmanship. They would feel happy to get engaged rather than living solitary.
  3. Give them independence, care—physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual, dignity, participation and self-fulfillment.
  4. Start a day-care center for elderly at your home if you're a housewife and spend the whole day watching television. Ask them to make handicrafts if they wish. Organize a sales exhibition of the handicrafts at an interval of time. Mobilize them as salespersons. They feel immensely happy to talk and interact with new people during the exhibitions.
  5. Organize recreational events for older people on weekends like picnic, a trip to beach, a fair or a dance party.
  6. Senior citizens are full of experiences and experiments. Ask an elderly person in your community to give a talk about their past and how they would love to see future time to the youths, adolescents and kids once a week or month. The venue could be anywhere like in a nearby school, club or a place of worship.
  7. Hold a competition for older people—a quiz, a dance competition, or some kind of fun tournament like chess, cards, darts etc. Announce the best performing senior citizen as “Senior of the Year/Month.” Publicize your events through mass media and Internet.
  8. Ask senior citizens and retired officers' groups to join you in campaigning for safe water maintenance, tree plantation, organ donation, peace promotion etc.
  9. Raise a public awareness program for youths, kids and adolescents on aging. Conduct training program on care and counseling to older people.
  10. 1Write to your government to make adequate and dignified arrangement like old-age homes, day-care centers or counseling centers for the senior citizens who are forced to live miserably on a footpath or a public shed before they become beggars.
  11. 1Listen to the problems of the elderly in your community or around by bringing them together on weekends for tea.
  12. 1Request the business organizations, airlines, travel agencies, restaurants, theaters, Internet service providers etc. around your community to give a special discount or free service to elderly people. This would certainly help grow their business.
  13. 1Design any implementable program. Join hands with the organization who are already in the elderly business. Report your activities, newspaper clippings and other publicity materials to the address below for publication in Global Breakthrough and evaluation for awards.