Old age and the Cold Shoulders
May 17: Old age is an irreversible biological phenomenon, one that eventually terminates with the end of the life of a human being. That is more like science but in our daily life, where attitudes, behavior, values, aesthetics rule there is more than can be defined of an old age. It is one experience that cannot be had otherwise. When the trails of experience and wisdom have made a lasting impression on the human himself, one can say he is never out of it. It is a gift which no one can refuse to take. But the transformations brought in our society sometimes make us scare of this stage as everyone of us has to face it one day.
It is hard to believe but old people are among the poorest in many societies and by far one of the most vulnerable sections of the society. Researches reveal that the old age has become more of an inevitable threat to an individual today. One reason for this irony could be, due to governments being prepared for the world‚??s rapidly ageing population.
Old people are especially vulnerable during and after humanitarian crises, due to their physical frailty and lack of mobility. During aid distribution, they often get neglected. Today we see this section of the society as an easy target for thieves. There are a number of cases in Delhi alone, where the thieves relished this easy target.
Today we see many old aged people being abandoned, as their children prefer to live separately after marriage or leave their places to make good of their career. Living on God‚??s mercy, they either live a downtrodden life till they die or get brutally murdered while fighting against the odds of life.
In India life expectancy has gone up from 20 years in the beginning of the 20th century to 62 years today. Better medical care and low fertility have made the elderly the fastest growing section of society.
In France, it took 120 years for the grey population to double from 7 % to 14 %. But in India, the grey population has doubled in 25 years!
Statistics of India, about the increase of the older persons since 1901.
Year No Of Older Persons
1901 12 million
1951 19 million
2001 77 million.
By 2025 a whopping 177 million!
While the numbers have gone up, quality of life has gone down. Industrialization, migration, urbanization and westernization have severely affected value systems. The erstwhile joint family, the natural support system, has crumbled. The fast-changing pace of life has added to the woes of the older person.
Researches in India reveal:
90% of older persons are from the unorganized sector, with no social security at the age of 60.
30% of older persons live below the poverty line and another 33% just marginally over it.
80% live in rural areas.
73% are illiterate, and can only be engaged in physical labor.
55% of women over 60 are widows, many of them with no support
There are nearly 200,000 centenarians in India.
Not only India, is confronting increased number of the old aged, complimented with their social insecurity but also the whole world at large is taking a note of this serious issue. By 2050, more than one in five people will be aged over 60, thanks to falling fertility rates and longer life expectancy. According to UNDESA, nearly 80% will live in developing countries.
In Uganda, 64% of older people live in poverty. Many older people have been affected by the AIDS pandemic and care for people infected with HIV and orphaned and vulnerable children. An estimated 50 per cent of the estimated 1.2 million orphans in Uganda are under the care of grandparents.
It is for these reasons that 159 governments have signed the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) almost 5 years back. This commits governments to include ageing in all social and economic development policies, and to halve old-age poverty by 2015, in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002 stated:
‚??Persons as they age, should enjoy a life of fulfillment, health, security and active participation in the economic, social, cultural and political life of their societies. We are determined to enhance the recognition of the dignity of older persons and to eliminate all forms of neglect abuse and violence".
The United Nations is reviewing progress that governments have made towards implementing MIPAA and will present results in New York early next year (2008).
Millions of older people across the world experience isolation, poverty, violence and abuse and have limited access to health services, education and legal protection. With no regular income older people are often forced to work in low-paid or demeaning jobs to provide for themselves and their dependants.
Let us stand up and shoulder our duties as obedient citizens and as obedient children. ‚??Charity begins at home‚?? so goes the saying, and then why not ensure the security of our own parents first, and then claim governments for their securities like tripartite package of universal social pensions, free healthcare and non-discriminatory laws. After all they were not born old and no one is there to stay younger forever.
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