TODAY -

International Day For The Older Persons, 2020
Special care in the context Of COVID-19

SK Singh *



The first thing we are intrigued is why we mark International Days. We have Water Day, Ocean Day, Environment Day, Population Day, Day of the Older Persons, so on so forth,......, the list is long. We have International Days on anything, even for 'Boy Friend'.

Anyway, these days are marked as occasions to educate, rather to raise awareness of, the public on issues of common concern. These are days when we collectively resolve to mobilize political will, resources to address global problems and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations (UN). The UN embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

In the same spirit, International Day for the Elderly People is used to celebrate on the 1st of October across the globe, to make the people aware of the Elders' contribution to society and also to appreciate the problems of the Elders as they enter their autumn of life.

In today's context, this day has a unique significance in that the elders this day face an inimitable confrontation with the Covid-19 pandemic which has hit hard the entire humanity like never before. For one, they are graded as the most vulnerable considering their degrading health, and for two, they face the most ferocious disease ever. This year's Older Persons Day has a special significance.

Worst still, COVID-19 pandemic might have significantly lowered incomes of the elderly people, adding burden to an already burdened group due to degrading health and worse financial burden. The few options open to these groups are already hard hit adding to their woes. These superlatives are only fertile position for these elderly to be abused more than any time before.

According to the WHO estimates, 15.7% of people 60 years and above are subjected to abuse. In another study the WHO claims that one in six people aged 60 and above faced some form of abuse during 2019. In other words, for every six elders, at least one is ill treated on the average.

The most pathetic situation is the finding by 'Help Age India' an NGO based in India that 'one out of every three elderly persons' faced abuse in one way or the other. The survey was conducted in 20 select-cities across the country in 2014. The position then must have changed by 2020, but most probably for the worst.

The most heart-breaking revelation was in most of the cases the primary abuser happened to be the very sons and, I could surmise without a doubt, the daughters-in-law must be taking a lead role too. What could be more shocking at this reality, at a time when the parents need care and concern from their own children more than ever before?

The celebration of this day wouldn't be complete without a narrative of their woes and measures how to minimize. Themes differently coined over the years all sum up to the reality that today the majority of elders suffer an agonizing life as they reach 60 and above. It would be worthwhile to ponder on the areas where they would need a relook. One or two can be discussed.

Such days should be devoted to weeklong discussions, declarations, exhibitions, street plays, essay competitions and the like to raise awareness about like:-
i) issues which affect the elders the most;
ii) appreciate their contribution towards society;
iii) focus on which type of behavior can help older men and women throughout their life;
iv) to make their life better and happy by analyzing all the problems affecting their life.

The present practice of celebrating where in few centres, the government as also the CSOs donate gifts, clothing, eatables, praise their contribution to their families in mechanically set up meetings with lectures which are bereft of any major issue and their solutions. These one day functions are forgotten sooner than later from the next day only to awaken after 365 days.

The celebrations had been althrough very casual without any of the elements for wider awareness. In the result, the elders fall back to 'Square One' till the next year. The sufferings get going all the more intense more so during this year when the elders are more exposed to the impending peril lurking around.

In our land, because of absence of adequate social security, these elders face the problems of a decent living. These problems inherent in the system are minimized to a greater extent where the older persons land up in an 'Old age Home'. Their worries, concern are mostly taken care of by the HOME. Left at their ancestral home with their sons and daughters, the problem get intense.

The premise that older people are fonts of wisdom, experience, and story telling and that we are fortunate to have older persons around us are brushed aside as outmoded. The youngsters take them as more of a burden than of anything worth. The reality is, far too often, they are ignored, marginalized and worst still, abused.

Experience with associating with 25 older persons in the Old Age Home at Mongshangei, since 2011 tells us some insights we tend to ignore. We find it worthwhile to spend time with them. Chatting with them whenever opportunity is available is one great way to minimize their overriding worry, melancholy.

Finding time with them, volunteering their cause, the illness dogging around, the marginalization they face even amidst their equals, not much of eatables or clothes and the like go a lng way. Listening to their past, at least the brighter sides in their hey days, advocating their cause with the inmates or the managers too are great boons for them.

A little of care, enquiry, their foods, their tea time etc boost their moral than any of the state functions like, 'International Day of the Olders'. The reason is not far to locate. In the state function nobody cares their woes. In sessions on other days, their woes, worries are addresses straightaway. The impact is tremendous.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on October 08 2020.



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