Most of us pray for a long life that is healthy and free of disability or disease. But with the aging, our body becomes weak and loses the taut muscles. We see seniors every day whose health is being impacted by such issues as multiple medications and illnesses. However, it is not necessary to spend the retirement days in bed or hospital. The World Health Organization which is the UN’s directing and coordinating authority for health related issues deserves Kudos for being actively involved in promoting public awareness and attention on the International Day of Older Persons. Senior citizens are the jewels and pearls of the nation. It is essential for them to take care of themselves. The senior citizens constitute a precious reservoir of such human resource as is gifted with knowledge of various sorts, varied experiences and deep insights. It is observed that as life expectancy rises disproportionately due to medical and welfare facilities, senior citizens are treated as a burden on the economy rather than the assets that they could be. We must see them as being worthy of respect and extra consideration because in the course of their lives they’ve earned our gratitude because of the ways in which their individual actions have contributed to society as a whole.
The population of the elderly persons has been increasing over the years. Growing older is not a crime nor is it an excuse to avoid modern life. Ageing is a natural process, which inevitably occurs in human life cycle. It brings with a host of challenges in the life of the elderly, which are mostly engineered by the changes in their body, mind, thought process and the living patterns. For living a healthy senior lifestyle it is essential to take care of one’s diet, physical and mental fitness. We know that the tag senior citizen is generally given to a person who is between 58 and 65 years of age and has superannuated from active service. This age band fixed for retirement was based on the old system followed decades ago when longevity was lower than 60 years. With the advance in medical sciences and health supporting systems, longevity now goes up to 75.
As per the UNESCO estimates, the number of the aged (60+) is likely to 590 million in 2005. It is said that the figure will double by 2025. By 2025, the world will have more elderly than young people and cross 2 billion mark by 2050. In other words about 8 per cent of the total population is above 60 years. The figure will cross 18 per cent mark by 2025.
If the children are within the country, the parents are fairly satisfied as they can visit them or the children can come home for occasions like marriages and festivals. The pangs of separation and the fear of loneliness, on the other hand, increase if the children live abroad. Thus the elders’ lives are situation-dependent. The presence of relatives and old-age homes, however comfortable, cannot provide for emotional needs. Some people overcome the blues by taking recourse to cultural and social activities but others suffer silently. Low income and poor health aggravate the misery. The one big issue that doesn’t get enough attention today is that old people deserve dignity.
One could witness the enthusiasm and energy of the senior citizens as they celebrate the day that belonged to them. May be they have formally retired, yet a devastating majority of them are physically fit and mentally alert.
We all owe senior citizens our respect and gratitude as individuals. Senior citizens don’t have anything to prove to younger neighbours but they do have plenty of opportunities to teach or interact with them. Rather than demoting senior citizens to the side lines of life, let us work to enable them to fully become integrated in the society.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)