No place for the elderly in today’s society?


In contemporary times, where money measures everything, old people are weighed as an economic liability and a social burden. Old age is observed as an undesired, problem-ridden stage of life that everyone is forced to live. It marks time until the final exit from life itself.
In Pakistan, being old means the start of unending deprivations, an alienation from the family and an indifferent attitude from society. Elderly people are among the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society. They are often financially distressed. Many have to continue working until the day they die and many are poorly paid and work in unsafe and irregular environments. It is a pity that none of the political, religious or social parties, pretending to work for the betterment of the people, address issues faced by elderly people in their manifestos.
No event was held in the country on a governmental level to celebrate the International Day for Older People on Saturday, which was celebrated around the world with zeal and zest. In such callous times, Help Age Pakistan is a ray of hope that might resolve this predicament. It was the only organisation celebrating the day with enthusiasm. The 80th birthday of an elderly man was celebrated to pay tribute to all elderly people in the country on the International Day for Older People.
Help Age Pakistan is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the welfare of elderly people and has been true to the cause for around nine years. “Many people are frightened of growing old. Distinguishing old age with fear is in fact a rather recent phenomenon. It seems to intensify as each day passes and the world become more difficult and less comprehensible,” Saifullah Darvaish, president of Help Age Pakistan said. He said that the International Day for Older People was aimed at encouraging people to be active and raise awareness of the benefits of physical, social and mental activity.
Speaking about the establishment of the ‘old home club’ to facilitate the elderly, he said that the government would set up such homes soon. He said that children should serve their parents especially when they are old as they needed greater attention and love.
Derwaish said that in nine years they had worked for the elderly with the government’s co-operation and had started several new projects like special schemes, special counters in public offices, wards in hospitals and had organized different functions and walks for raising issues that the elderly face.
“The UN created this annual event in 1991 to celebrate the contributions and achievements of people in later life. People aged 60 and over represent almost 11 percent of the total world population including Pakistan; and by 2050, the number is predicted to rise to 19 percent. A rapid increase in population of the elderly (people who are above 60) is occurring in the developing world. This will mean there will be more elderly people in the world than children for the first time in history,” Derwaish said.
The current demographic profile of Pakistan shows that the elderly population constitutes 4.2 percent of the total population in the country The overall population pyramid is broader in the middle with the highest figures (58 percent) being from 15-64 years. In view of poverty, economic disparity and inadequate health facilities, the elderly population suffers a number of set backs. There is a trend for nuclear families that has augmented the social care problems for this group of people. The government of Pakistan has sought consultation on national strategy on health for elderly in which a number of problems among elderly were identified like: loneliness, depression, fear of dying, lack of social relations, painful medical conditions, deprivation, lack of resources, and loss of a partner. In a local study, five or more health problems were found in 72 percent elderly subjects with almost half of them taking three or more different medications daily for issues such as immobility, urinary incontinence, dyspnoea, fatigue and visual impairment. Hypertension, diabetes and arthritis were the most commonly reported chronic ailments. Among the mental illnesses, depression has been identified as a significant problem. In a local study there was a noted 22.9 percent prevalence of depression among the elderly. It has been shown that chronic diseases in the elderly are consistent risk factors for depression. Important aspect that is not yet covered empirically is the issue of elder abuse. Local report indicates about lack of appropriate health care facilities and schemes as well as policies for the senior citizens. This is in a way a subtle form of neglect or abuse. Speaking from a global perspective, it is being predicted that by the year 2025, the global population of those aged 60 years and older will be around 1.2 billion. Few population-based studies suggest that between 4 to 6 percent of elderly people have experienced some form of abuse in their household.
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the elderly are at a high risk of abuse in institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes and other long term care facilities. Abusive acts in institutions include physically restraining the patients, depriving them of dignity and a choice in daily affairs.


Comments are closed.