International Day of Older Persons

Raising awareness of the facilities and challenging of aging

October 1  is the International Day of Older Persons.  The day is observed every year around the world. The United Nations General Assembly on December 14, 1990 by the resolution 45/106 declared and designated that October 1, 1991 would be the International Day of Older Persons.  Thenceforth, the day has been observed all over the world.

The UNO’s theme of this year 2019 is “The Journey to Age Equality.” This day is observed to create awareness about our duties and responsibilities to the older persons. This occasion reminds us of our duty as to pay our respects, show our sympathy and compassion to them. This event teaches us to be caring, generous, benevolent, loving and kind to them; at the same time, it educates us to show love and adoration for them. In addition, the day also gives us the message to provide them with equal facilities as other members of the families are provided.

An old person shall be given equal nursing, food, clothes, love, affection and protection as other members are given. The old ones will not be neglected, or treated as a burden at all. The day also aims to reduce the inequalities of the facilities and amenities between the old members and the young ones in the family. However, those who are young members in the family today will naturally grow older tomorrow. If discriminatory behavior is shown, the young ones when will grow old will also be victims of discrimination. Therefore, discrimination between the old and the young should be eliminated and ended.

The theme clearly aims to draw attention to the old age, inequality and highlight international risk of increasing old age inequalities. It brings awareness of preventing future old age inequalities. This day educates public on the issue of concern, mobilizes political will, and resources to address global problems and to celebrate and reinforce achievement of humanity.

Old age is the last stage of human life. It is the later part of life after youth, and the United Nations has agreed that 65+ years may be usually denoted as old age. Naturally, people at old age lose warmth, efforts, energy, strength, enterprises of youth, and become weak, imbecile and dependent on others. At this stage, they need support and help of other members of the family. If they get support and help, they find courage and consider life meaningful because they get assistance from other members of the family. However, if they do not get any support in this old age from the other members of the family, they find no meaning of their life and their hard work they did in youth for the junior members of the family. 

They feel disappointed and their miseries know no bounds. The world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. At present 8.5 percent of people are old. Now, 617million are aged 65 and over. In Bangladesh, more than 77% older persons live in the rural areas. Most of them are poor, destitute, miserable and helpless. For economic crisis or for other grounds the extended families are going to be broken and the elderly persons are being neglected, abandoned and uncared for. The number of the older people has exceeded 1 crore in Bangladesh. More than 7% people of total population are older persons. It is estimated that the percentage of the older people will increase to 10% by 2026 and 20% by 2050.

It is a matter of great sorrow to see what really happens or tends to happen mostly to poor older persons in our family or society. The persons who are older today were once very young and active. In the prime of life, they worked hard for the wellbeing and welfare of their family members. The parents suffered all through their life for the welfare of their children. They loved their children more than they loved their own life. Even they fed their children keeping themselves hungry. They protected them from all possible dangers. They gave the children what they needed and spent everything for them. 

They kept seated at night by the reading table of the children and encouraged them to read, write, acquire knowledge and be a great person in the family and society. They sacrificed their comforts, happiness and joy for the sake of the welfare of the children. The parents tried to satisfy the demands of their children by buying new dresses, playthings and other necessary objects that the children needed. Parents did those at the cost of their ease and comfort. Thus, they fulfilled every demand of their sons and daughters as far as it was practicable for them.

Parents love their children very much. If the children are away from home, the parents remain in tension until the children come back home. If the children fall ill, parents become very worried. They do not sleep leaving their children alone. They remain seated at night by the bedside of the ailing children and attend on them for the whole night. They call in a doctor for treatment and pray to God for their speedy recovery. Children are the inseparable parts of the parents because children are born of the blood of the parents. So, parents’ love for their children is so much deep that they cannot forget their children. Thus, amid love and affection, children grow up into young men, while parents gradually and naturally grow older.

These grown up young men and women become able-bodied , independent, capable of earning money and become established in society, at this stage some of the ungrateful sons and daughters forget the total contribution of their parents, they forget the hard labor of their parents to make their fortune and build up their career. They forget that they could not be born without their parents.

They do not take care of their parents nor take any responsibility for maintaining their old and helpless parents. These ungrateful sons and daughters even feel ashamed of introducing their parents to his friends and colleagues. Some of the stony heated sons do not allow their parents to stay with them. They send them to old homes, or some old and helpless parents beg in the streets or work as day labors somewhere else. These ingrates forget that in course of time, they will grow old and become helpless, and their sons and daughters will behave with them in the same manner as they did with their parents.

To discourage these activities, the day creates awareness not to neglect and abandon the old and helpless parents, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers and other near relatives who are helpless in the family. The International Day of Older Persons offers an opportunity to highlight the real conditions that the older persons face in the family and society and to raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges of the ageing in today’s world. Bangladesh observed the day with the theme as other countries did. As the theme suggests, Bangladesh got and opportunity to participate with the global countries to create awareness of the facilities and challenging of ageing, and thereby Bangladesh expressed her solidarity with other global countries in celebrating the day.

The day was observed by different organizations in Bangladesh with due fervor and solemnity. They brought out processions, rallies, held discussions to disseminate the message of the theme of the UNO for this year. The radios and televisions put up special programs on the importance and need of the day. On the occasion, President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages greeting all the senior citizens and wished healthy and peaceful life and sound minds.

President Abdul Hamid, said, “I am very much delighted to learn that the International Day of the Older Persons is going to be observed in the country like elsewhere in the world. People become older according to the natural rules and they face different problems. So, I think this year’s theme is appropriate.” Prime Minister Sheik Hasina in a message said that the Government had taken initiative and enterprise to implement the National Policy for ‘Elderly Development Foundation’ to increase the facilities for senior citizens. She further said, “Awami League government is implementing different programs under the ‘Vision 2021’ for the overall welfare of the senior citizens”

Moreover, the Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees the right and protection of older people, which Article 15 (D) ensures it. In conclusion, it may be said that every older person is a living encyclopedia of experience and knowledge. The older persons should be provided with facilities relating to accommodation, health, food, recreation, reading books, and amenities of life. We have to remember ‘old is gold.’ According to their physical and educational qualifications, they should be provided with empowerment so that they can contribute to the nation. If they are provided with jobs, they will have economic empowerment, then they need not be a burden on the family or society. 

They must be treated with love, affection, respect and dignity, because they are senior citizens. If they get proper empowerment, they will not be neglected, abandoned, and an object of pity. I urge the government to come up with fruitful projects so that the older people can be provided with employment. Old people are embodiments of well experiences which can be utilized in our practical life for betterment of the nation. In this connection, I like to mention a quotation, “Old wood is best to burn, old wine to drink; Old friends to trust, and old authors to read.” Francis Bacon. Likewise, older people are good for a family, society and state.

Md Matiur Rahman Khan  is a former Joint Secretary to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and regular contributor to the Bangladesh Post