June 19, 2013 | 09:43 PM (BD Time)
19 June, 2013 Wednesday
Afghan President Karzai to boycott talks with Taliban ; 30 brokers jailed at Agargaon passport office ; ACC a toothless tiger : Chairman ; Obama to call for nuclear cuts in Berlin speech ; 2 fake DB men arrested in Jessore; Hartal in CHT progressing peacefully for 2nd day ; NSA director says plot against Wall Street foiled ; Israeli premier: pressure on Iran must continue ; DCC elections after Eid-ul-Fitr : EC ; Indefinite transport strike (Khulna) enters day 3 ; 18-party to stage demo countrywide on June 22 ; One killed in Jamalpur ‘by brother’ ; Jhenidah road crashes kill 2 ;
Be serious about the senior citizens’ issues
Farhana Zaman :
The Sherpas- a Tibetan speaking Buddhist people in Nepal- live in a culture that idealizes old age. Almost all elderly members of Sherpa culture own their homes and most are in relatively good physical condition. Among the Faluni of Africa, however, older men and women move to the edge of the family homestead. Since that is where people are buried, the elderly sleep over their own graves, for they are viewed socially as already dead. However, the latter represents the attitudes of majority cultures of the world towards elderly people.
For a variety of reasons, growing old is widely seen in a negative light. It is understandable that all societies have some system of age discrimination that associates certain roles with distinct periods in life. And this discrimination is becoming widely manifested with the increasing number of older people. According to UN the total number of elderly people in the world will reach at 1200 million by the year 2025. UN also stated that the world is experiencing an age-quake. Every month, one million people reach 60 years of age. By the year 2030, several industrial countries will have one third of their population over 60 years of age. Though unlike developed countries, our population is slowly aging representing about 4.0 percent of the total, the size of the elderly population will increase due to the increased life expectancy and thereby, increasing the dependency burden.
"Being old" is a master status that overshadows many other problems. Negative stereotypes of the elderly contribute to their position as the minority group subject to discrimination. By following the principle of the "Survival of the Fittest", older people are continuously being pushed out from all the sectors of the society by the young. This may be casual or systematic, intentional or unintentional. Whatever may be the way, age discrimination affects different individuals and groups in different ways. This discrimination is multiplied when the age factor is accompanied by any sort of disability.
Age discrimination was felt to impact on every area of older people's lives; in employment, in public services, in public places and even in family life. In the patrilineal family system of our country, sons are expected to take care for and provide services to parents in old age. But the traditional joint family structure in rural Bangladesh is being disintegrated into nuclear families over last few decades due to poverty, attitudes of self-interest, rise of individualism, high privacy, misunderstanding, maladjustment and so on. Under these circumstances, the elderly people are either sent to the old homes becoming isolated or alienated from their kin or are left to live alone and to face socio-economic, health and emotional problems on their own.
It is generally viewed that the older people are economically unproductive. They experience unequal treatment in employment and may face prejudice and discrimination. In Bangladesh, the percentage of the elderly population is increasing but, their participation in the labour force is decreasing which decreased from 62.5% in 1950 to 46.6% in 2000 and expected to further decrease 42.9% by 2010. The transition from ago-based economy to industrialization and capitalism has not always been beneficial to the elderly. As a society's mode of production changes, the traditionally valued role of older people tends to erode. Their wisdom is no longer relevant in the new economy. Consequently, they withdraw themselves from all sorts of social and economic involvement and engage in preparing themselves for death.
For many, old symbolizes disease. If they are poor, the situation is worse and majority of them surrender to death without treatment. But those who can afford treatment undergo much discriminatory behavior. When a doctor says he or she will not take older patients because they take much time that is discriminatory. The doctor's office with the sign "One appointment, one medical problem" is unjustified too because older people are likely to have multiple health problems than any other age group.
Ageism is there in our language too. Phrases like "our seniors", "the elderly", or "your loved one" can be ageist: these terms though seem positive but have a negative impact on older people. These terms treat them as if they are someone's property, not as individuals.
In Bangladesh, elderly population has become an important social concern because of extreme poverty, illiteracy and lack of social security system. Not much priority has been given to address the elderly issue. But even few programs taken by the government are highly appreciable. They are: 1) Pension: Though only for the Government employees in Bangladesh that constitutes only a negligible fraction of the total population. 2. Old Age Allowance Programme: Though the selection of the elderly people for the allowance is not yet clear. 3. National Elderly Policy: The Ministry of Social Welfare has finalized the National Policy for the Elderly people in 2006 for the protection of the elderly people from all hazard and hassles which is still inactive. Thus, disabled and distressed older people are still here accustomed with ill-health, poor housing and social isolation. A dependent life, with few resources and less opportunities is taken as pretty much for older residents. "Honor the past, imagine the future" by this declaration the American society started to give more emphasis on health care and economic security for its elderly people. We must follow these developed countries to address the elderly issue more efficiently. Government, NGO and all their organizations should come up with more initiatives and programs for increasing the involvement of the elderly people in th
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