Stephen Richards has said that “when we age we shed many skins: ego, arrogance, dominance, self-opinionated, unreliable, pessimism, rudeness, selfish, uncaring … Wow, it’s good to be old! October 1 is celebrated as the International Day for Older Persons every year. It is especially celebrated for the senior citizens all across the world to focus on the responsibilities towards their lives. This day is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of the issues and challenges of ageing in today’s world. It is a time not only to highlight their valuable contribution to the globe but also to stress their basic human rights. Many older persons are unaware of their rights and how to enforce them, due to a variety of reasons.
This is why celebrating the International Day of Older Persons is important in raising global awareness as a huge advocacy effort to call for more enhanced international thinking and actions on elderly rights. The age problem certainly confronts us and the matter is taking a turn for the worse with the passage of time. Today the life expectancy has risen sharply due to medical advancement, improvements in nutrition, sanitation, medical science, health care, education, and economic well-being. Ageism is widespread and an insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults. The problem of loneliness and isolation is the gift of modern society. The society forces an old person to live like an island. The ageing process is a biological reality and affects every human being on earth. Physical strength leaves us resulting in general weakness and physical and mental infirmity’. Ageism rests on the assumption that discrimination against older persons is the norm and acceptable. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. We must do everything possible to ensure that our elders can lead a life of dignity, enjoy the best of medical attention, economic security as well as emotional stability. Every phase of life has its own problems which require prudence, wisdom, courage, and strength to attend to. In childhood and youth, one has parents and other close elderly kith and kin to help, cooperate and guide. Besides, one himself is full of energy, strength, stamina, and courage. But the situation takes a reverse turn in the old age.
The older persons make wide-ranging contributions to economic and social development. They should be encouraged to get out of their retirement mentality and think about old age as second innings and opportunity to complete so many unfinished tasks and expand horizons to look beyond the family and work for the community. When one grows old, this natural love and affection of other members of the family for him vanishes and the elderly person becomes like a planet which has lost its gravitational force and has consequently been lost in the boundless and endless empty space.
As per WHO, there are around 600 million persons world-wide aged 60 years and over and this total will double by 2025 and it is estimated to reach virtually two billion by 2050 – the vast majority of them in the developing world.
Do we forget that the luxuries enjoyed by us were created by them through their hard work? At the same time we must also remember that we too will be like them one day and if our children treat us in the same fashion, are we going to happy then? We need to look at creating a more enabling and inclusive environment that is supportive and inclusive to people of all ages, including older people. The failure to tackle ageism undermines older persons’ rights and hinders their contributions to social, economic, cultural and political life.The younger generation should know how the world addresses the elderly. The problem of old age should be seen as a societal issue rather than an individual’s problem. A day will come when we all will be old and we will be facing the similar situation as faced by our elders today. It is our responsibility to provide long-term care to them and thus contribute to healthy ageing.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)