Less tears more cheers for ageing population! | Daily News


Less tears more cheers for ageing population!

Last Tuesday October 1, was International Day of Older Persons. The theme of the 2019 celebrations to mark the event was about enabling and expanding the contributions of older people in their families, communities and societies at large. It focused on the pathways that support full and effective participation in old age, in accordance with old persons’ basic rights, needs and preferences.

This year’s theme underscores the link between tapping the talents and contributions of older persons and achieving the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, which is currently undergoing its fifth review and appraisal process.

The theme of the 2019 commemoration is “The Journey to Age Equality”.

Between 2017 and 2030, the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals, the number of older persons worldwide is set to increase by 58 per cent — from 970 million to more than 1.8 billion. By 2030, the number of people aged 60 and above will exceed that of young people aged 15 to 24.

The 2017 theme will explore effective means of promoting and strengthening the participation of older persons in various aspects of social, cultural, economic and civic and political life. Surely, it would have been an apt occasion to have assured the elderly in our midst that we recognise their worth and are doing our best to give something back to them for their valuable input to society at large.

After a lifetime of working, raising families and contributing to the success of this nation in countless other ways, senior citizens deserve to be treated with dignity. With people living and working longer, it is increasingly important that we appreciate the consequence of supporting senior citizens within our society.

The ageing process often brings about significant health, emotional, cognitive and social changes. Family members and caregivers should look to the principles of respect and consideration when dealing with the challenges which may accompany this process.

Remember always to treat an elderly person as an adult and an individual. Never be patronizing with them. He or she should be given a patient hearing particularly when it comes to decisions about their life, medication and health. There are some young people who have been brought up the right way by their parents to respect their elders. But unfortunately some of them do not appreciate the elderly or feel they are of any use in today’s fast paced world.

Yet even amid this frenzied rat race there are many young people who go out of their way to listen to the wisdom of the elderly or take a genuine interest in the stories the elderly may have to relate about the past.

Remember they were young once too and many accomplished a great deal in their lives. One can learn from their wisdom the key to success.

As such, some of them could be considered more productive than their younger less experienced counterparts. ‘Old is gold,’ claims the ancient hackneyed adage. But how old would one consider too old when it comes to hiring a ‘golden’ oldster? It might come as a surprise to many at what age employers consider people old. In many cases rejected job-seeker ‘oldies’ are in their 50s and 60s and possibly 70s. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka as a general rule people become retirees around the ages of 55-60.

Many of them are in their prime when they are relinquished to the geriatric paddock. Ability, experience, good health, temperament and an enterprising streak should be considered above all. Age in such cases is irrelevant. A good many oldsters are far more sprightly, dedicated and possess certain innovative qualities. Add to that vast years of experience and they are unmatchable candidates.

In fact, in many other countries they are asking retired people to think about going back to work in the capacity of their previous jobs to teach the ‘green horns’ how to do their job. It’s a great idea and one that will mesh both the young and old ideas to make for an almost perfect solution to any business problem. Although Sri Lanka’s intrinsic social values are fairly unique as far as most Asian cultures go, the care and treatment being meted out to a large segment of our greying population has become a worrying trend.

Despite our inherent cultural heritage which subscribes to many religious attributes, such as filial devotion, the respect and care displayed towards the elderly have shown a shocking decline. Although all religious teachers talk about inherent social values, such concepts are fast eroding in Sri Lankan society. True, a great many of these values such as filial devotion and strong family relationships still do exist among a fair section of the population. This is undoubtedly because of the ancient local traditions, where people’s lives centered mainly around religion and the family.

But sadly, these values are eroding, largely because the younger generation chooses to identify with and involve themselves in the almighty rat race.

In the rush towards personal economic success, people are forgetting the importance of all those attributes that are good and decent.

Why should our consumer-orientated, materialistic lifestyle make us lose focus of solid family values so that we, with unmitigated cruelty at times, relegate our parents to the limbo of the forgotten? Many religious leaders have expressed grave concern that in this context a fair number of their devotees are no exception when faced by pressures caused by the race for material prosperity.

Several pathetic stories about neglected parents by their offspring have been brought to their attention. Besides acts of shocking neglect are the heart-rending tales of deceit, verbal abuse and even physical violence.

We see around us reprehensible acts of degrading torment for the family elders, who often give up the will to live. Yet often after the death of the victim whose last days on earth have been a living Hell, those same perpetrators make a show of public mourning and provide ostentatious almsgivings. Such sanctimonious pretence is hard to comprehend. Is economic success, all that important? Does it have to take precedence over our own unique set of cultural and moral values, which the Western world views as perhaps ultra-conservative? And do we as human beings have to resort to cruelty to the weak and ageing, when what is clearly needed are simple acts of kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness and compassion? But what we see around us are many hypocrites who after profiting from parental inheritances - wealth and property at times signed under threats of shocking duress - being treated with appalling heartlessness. No, we say, some things, such as strong extended family ties, are far more important than economic success and a better standard of living. If in our pursuit of profit and gain we lose sight of our duties and responsibilities towards our own elderly then it will be a sad day for all of us. Clearly these middle-aged parents themselves guilty of neglect of their own parents should set an example to their own offspring in respecting their grandparents and the elders among the community. Rest assured that this will only remind them of their own vulnerability and mortality, where the Wheels of God could turn the same cycle. After all, money can’t buy happiness nor could one put a value in monetary terms of parental care and love.

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