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Opinions of Friday, 30 June 2017

Columnist: The Mirror

Let’s think about old people

The reality is that the aged make useful contributions to our communities, countries and the world The reality is that the aged make useful contributions to our communities, countries and the world

Many may not accept it, but we are living in times which do not appear to care much about enhancing the day-to-day experience of old people.

Improvement in science and medical care has generally made it possible for humans to live longer. Diseases that killed people in droves in the past now have cures and there are constant research programmes aimed at finding solutions to some intractable health conditions in many parts of the world.

The assumption is that better health care, which translates into longer lives, will be matched by compassionate concern for the aged, but that is not always the case in many places. In our part of the world, people who live to ripe ages even stand the risk of being labelled witches and wizards.

The reality is that the aged make useful contributions to our communities, countries and the world. It is known that in societies ravaged by HIV and AIDS, gang warfare and drug abuse, it is often grandparents who look after the children left behind by those gloomy situations.

We may say that in Africa, for instance, changes in the way we live these days have disrupted our once cherished extended family connections. Adult children now live away from their parents and sometimes do not get to see the parents over long periods of time.

The outcomes of these so-called modern social alignments often do not favour the older folks, as there is sometimes no immediate or adequate help from close family members in times of emergencies. This raises the issue of the creation of policies across the board that ensure adequate levels of health for old people.

After living active working lives, isolation or loneliness becomes a big problem for many old people to deal with. They begin to need moments that liven up the boredom. In some places, there are day-care facilities for the elderly who can spend their time with others from morning till evening.

For some old people who would otherwise be all alone through the day, it is a blessing for them to have places where they can do all kinds of activities and interact with people of their age range.

Maybe our system here is not yet up to providing that sort of daily interaction in pleasant circumstances for our aged, but we can at least keep in constant touch with them and try to supply their basic needs to make life more pleasurable for them.

It is a good thing that, for whatever reasons, our Republic Day celebration ropes in a celebration of our elderly folks. Some of them, even if only a small number, are invited to official functions and made to feel appreciated. That is something laudable we must hold on to. After all, it is just a matter of time before young people also make the grade and qualify as ‘elders.’

What all young people must understand is that if old people were not here, they (younger ones) would not have been here. Time flies, as the saying goes, so there aren’t many years left before young folks become old folks.

The cycle of life dictates that the aged will always be here and so we should be proud of them for being part of our lives.