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Population ageing


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By Oscar E.V. Fernando

Ageing population is a worldwide study, in that it has brought with it socio/economic problems due to aged population reaching above that of the young. 

It is found that the aged save more than they consume to provide for an envisaged insecure future: this has caused a decrease in income generating production and an increase in expenditure on social welfare-constraining expenditure on development.

The UNO has declared an International Day of Elders that emphasises on the need to harness contribution of aged in the quest for socio/economic development-mixing moral principles with economic criteria.

Dignity of aged does not diminish with passing of years. This is what aged Lynda says of old age: “I’m now 101 years old, but I’m strong, you know; physically I have some disabilities, but spiritually/mentally there is nothing I can’t do; I don’t let physical impediments stand in the way; I pay no attention to them; I don’t suffer old age, because I ignore it; it goes ahead on its own, but I pay no heed to it. The only way to live well in old age is to live it in God.”

Self-esteem of the aged depends on how they are viewed by society and also on availability of opportunities, in keeping with capabilities of the aged, whereby they can be occupied for the benefit of society.

Employers should not judge a person’s worth only on the basis of youth, efficiency, physical vigour and health-qualities required only to generate profit.

Elders can be co-opted to share in spreading human, cultural, moral and social values that cannot be judged only in terms of economic efficiency: this is not a question of just doing something for the aged but also accepting them in a realistic way as partners in shared projects at their level of thought and action!

Today there are glaring reports on abuse of elders, whereby they are made to suffer and die or allowed a peaceful death with the practice of euthanasia, frequent in the west; it also happens due to a lackadaisical view on suicides consequent upon a fatalistic karma.

Love and care are needed when elders become vulnerable to chronic illnesses making them victims of human frailty, reminding them of life’s end-when they feel they are a useless burden and have reached the point of wanting death!

These are some points to think of;

Pope John Paul II in an address to elders says: Do not be surprised by the temptation of interior solitude: notwithstanding the complexity of your problems – the forces that gradually wear you down; the inadequacies of social organisations; the delays of official legislation and a selfish society’s failure to understand; you are not, and must not consider yourselves to be on the margins of life in society as passive elements in a world in excessive motion – but active subjects of a period in human existence which is rich in spirituality and humanity: you still have a mission to fulfil and a contribution to make; the aged are able to cultivate interests made possible by new technologies: no longer is old age synonymous with dependence on others or with a diminished quality of life.

A more mundane advice is: “Society for all ages is a society that far from caricaturing older people as retired and infirm, considers them as agents and beneficiaries of development” – Kofi Annan former UN Secretary General.

Here are some projects, among many others, that can be done without much cost to alleviate boredom and to show acceptance of elders:

  • Special parking slots-Queues at stations, bus stands
  • Seats in public transport
  • Special queues at Government organisations
  • Pension for all elders linked to inflation 
  • Housing for elders 
  • Medical schemes for elders 
  • Nursing care for elders 
  • Insurance schemes to have a pension 
  • Insurance to protect income
  • Adjusting the retirement age
  • Rewarding voluntary work of elders in selfless services

The planners should be wary of the fact that these very phenomena will inevitably be faced by them, one day in their own lifetime!

(The writer is a Senior Citizen and retired Director Finance/Board Member Sri Lanka Foundation/Member Human Rights Task Force.)


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