Protecting senior citizens' rights
Whenever we want to impress the foreign investors about the strength of our country, we tell them that almost half of our population is below 24. The idea sounds promising to them. Today, everyone seems to be looking up to the youth. There are lots of opportunities coming up for them.
But in our craze about the young guns we have forgotten the importance of the seniors. Today, an increasing number of our elders fear the thought of dying alone.
The young are often caught up in the competitive lifestyle and find that they are unable to dedicate time and resources to caring for their elderly parents and relatives. Regretfully, the so-called nuclear family concept selected by the society, instead of the traditional extended family, has encouraged negligence to elders.
In Bangladesh, a good number of Elders' Homes are functioning now and hundreds of inmates are living in those. Homicide and even suicides among the elderly have been known from different sources and on the increase while elder abuse, too, is on upward trend. These are indeed sad news.
To safeguard the elders, the Government should enact the Protection of Rights of Elders Act and establish the National Council of elders. The Council will make arrangements to bring facilities to the existing elders to offer protection for people above the age of 65. In terms of the law, any person found guilty of an offence would be punished. According to the law no person would be allowed to wilfully neglect or ill-treat an elder.
But will these legislative measures bring in 100 per cent of the expected results? Personally, I don't think so. In my opinion, persuasive means - not the enforceable legislative measures - remain a more effective means to redress the elders' issues of care and maintenance.
We need to make provisions within our society for this demographic shift. Dreams are not restricted only to the youngsters. Certainly not! The veterans have dreams too. They dream of being in the vicinity of their own blood. They dream of being with their kith and kin.
They wish to be given considerable attention by people around them. Be contented to visualise their kith and kin's progress. Be respected by their children. In short, at the approaching end of their lives, they are meant to reap the fruits of their hard work.
Unfortunately, in reality, somewhere down the line something goes wrong and they finally land up in a Home or compelled to live miserably neglected in the family.
When all their dreams are shattered, they undergo a sort of depression and feel that any place outside the home is better to spend their time till the fag end of their lives.
Statistics of those who are neglected and mistreated indicate that majority of them have well settled sons and daughters. The reality of today says that due to the advancements in medicine, people will continue to live longer. It implies that we are in for a country of millions of elders in the immediate years to come. But, have we as a society done anything about it? Or, at least, have we seriously thought about it?
Mohammad Shahidul Islam