By ZEESHAN RASOOL KHAN
The Bard of Avon’s “As you like it’’ begins with an intriguing phrase “All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely its actors”. These actors, after playing six different acts grow older and finally exit from all stages of life forever. However, the older-stage is one, when their condition becomes vulnerable. Once an infant and child himself or herself, the elderly person now wants infants and children around to play with. The lover of the past now desires to be loved. The soldier and judge of his times now wait for helping hand and decision of others. Ageing, being natural and inevitable, happens with everyone provided death won’t call beforehand. Thus, all of us, at a certain point of time need others irrespective of our stature.
Around us, there are thousands of people playing the last role on the stage of life. Some are managing it well but a big chunk of the population is suffering. They have no one around that they yearn for. They don’t find the support which they need. They do not get the love they desire. They miss the people who could make them smile. Some live isolated lives even while living with children and some desire to live at their homes but they cannot. Currently all around the globe, the rights of the elderly (senior) citizens are being crushed and they are not provided with what they deserve. They face all sorts of problems including psychological, financial and social as well.
The very name “Old Age Home” speaks volumes about our insensateness. The augmenting series of old-age homes in India and Pakistan is a shocking depiction. In India, 728 old age homes are operating and 69% increase in number of residents of old-age homes was witnessed in the past 4 years. In Pakistan, more than ten old-age homes are functioning in single province and the country is now being labeled as “no country for old-people”. In the bid of getting recognition, we ignore those who make the foundation of our life, who teach us to walk and talk and bear discomfort for our comfort. For our splendid future, these charitable entities scapegoat their present. They pin hopes that their old days would be better because of us. But at the end, things go diametrically opposite, when they are left to wither in old-age homes. This leads to psychological problems that they later fail to bear.
Most of these citizens face financial problems. While living with their families, they are deprived of their basic rights. They don’t get proper care and courtesy from family members thus they languish for the rest of their lives. These people, who uphold their family by putting their sweat and blood, finally become burdensome for them. Those who spend their gain for the prosperity of wards later fail to fetch even much-required medicines from them.
Socially also, these people are marginalized. With exceptions, most people show aversion towards them. Their company is not preferred. Owing to their experience, if they try to share their views or advice on any issue, their voices are ignored. At some places, they are unstated in the society. Mental disorders including poor memory, intolerance, incoherence and so on are very closely associated with old-age and are normal but instead of handling the situation, we make them feel more miserable through our approach. We lose our forbearance if an elderly repeats his or her question. If he fails to understand us, he or she faces contemptuous laughter and ridicule. There used to be days when the youth would offer their bus-seat to the old person. But nowadays they are seen standing throughout the journey. Though in public transport, seats have been reserved for them nonetheless they suffer because of negligence. In public offices, they are seen waiting in the queue with others have no feelings about their age and health condition.
Every religion emphasizes rights of senior citizens, especially elderly parents. There are religious-personal laws for the protection of their rights like Hindu adoption and maintenance Act 1956. Likewise, Muslim Personal law, Christian, and Parsi laws exist for providing them maintenance, implying that every religion has the special code of conduct for senior citizens.
The constitutional law like “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007” has also been formulated for protection of their rights but is not this a shame, that respect for parents and senior citizens is not evolving from our conscience rather they depend on the law to have a respectable life? And, much brazenness comes to the fore when even laws are violated and these people are singled out from societies, communities, and families.
According to a recent report of the ministry of Social Welfare, only 100 people, mostly males, are living in four old-age homes in Jammu and none in Kashmir valley which is inspiring if compared to rest of Indian states. However, other problems faced by senior citizens here in the family, public places etc also need to be resolved. We need to realize their significance and must give them due importance. Their rights must be kept in perspective so that they can live much deserving honorable lives. We must remember the golden rule: “Treat others how you wish to be treated”. If we desire of bliss in old-age, we need to provide same to old-people around us. Also, by treating them with admiration and esteem, we can set a precedent for others and generations to come.
—The author writes on current socio-political issues. He can be reached at: [email protected]